Bruce Lee & names in healthcare

Here is the thing about names, or at least, this was something the Bruce Lee said – names create fear – I think I might add alienation and possibly even suspicion to that list. I’ll explain.

This quote, was in relation to the martial art which Bruce developed – you see, he was quite resistant to giving it a name, or even calling it a ‘martial art’ – he just wanted it to be.

This is ‘Jeet Kune Do’ (JKD) – which translates (or so I am told) into ‘The way of the intercepting fist’ – although, I guess, like most things that are converted from Chinese to English, carry much more meaning and significance in their original – for those who know what I am talking about, think ‘Tao’ – which isn’t even pronounced like this, but is central to much Eastern thought.

Anyway –

Bruce decided that the only way to overcome an attacker, or at least to protect oneself from an opponent who could have followed any of the various schools of martial arts – Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Savate, even Capoeira, the Brazilian drum-beat/dance martial art, was to take the best of each, distill the essence from what worked and leave behind that which didn’t. In today’s world, this is sometimes referred to as ‘Lean’ – in the 60’s when Bruce was doing this, it didn’t have a name, it was just a sensible approach.

Bruce was resistant to giving the new form a name, as once that happened, he felt there would be a risk that it would stop growing and evolving – people would write textbooks about ‘JKD’ and that would ironically be the death of the form he developed, as there would likely be other martial arts he hadn’t studied or that had evolved afterwards which then would not become part of the corpus.

In other words, Bruce was content to teach a martial art that didn’t exist, that was not definable, that could not be used as a stick to hit another person – ‘My JKD beats your TKD,’ for example – this to him, was such an oversimplification, it was dangerous.

And so to naming things within healthcare – there is such a desperate need to give things a name – whether ‘Healthcare Improvement’ ‘Lean’ ‘Six-sigma,’ ‘The Intermountain Way,’ or, whatever, perhaps some of this stems from a need to appeal to the market, or to support communication.

Yet, it is the naming that although possibly helps spread the word, is part of the problem, as people move from just doing, to doing certain things, in certain ways, with restrictions and limitation – ‘We do it this way around here,’ or, ‘You have to include X, Y and Z, before you can say you have applied system F’

What I am saying is that the only way to really grow, to evolve, is to take the best bits from whatever, this is what biological systems have been doing for 14 billion years after all! If an amoeba had tried to convince all the other amoebae (go with me on this), that the only way to ‘be’ was to be unicellular, we would have a problem.

I therefore ask that before giving anything a name, before developing a system, or a method, think whether that naming could do more harm to your message than perhaps letting things be with a loose narrative or a description.

One of Bruce’s other saying was that JKD was ‘a circle without a circumference’ I think I might be starting to understand where he was heading with that idea.


Published by rodkersh1948

Trying to understand the world, one emotion at a time.

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