The Making of an MLB Phenom, Shohei Ohtani: Looking at The Harada Method
I first learned about an approach to personal development called “The Harada Method” when Norman Bodek co-authored a book with Takashi Harada: The Harada Method: The Spirit of Self-Reliance. You can learn more from Harada's website.
Norman was a guest on my podcast in 2013 to talk about this method:
Through Norman, I first heard of a young Japanese baseball player, Shohei Ohtani. Over the past few years, he has talked about Ohtani and his dream to play in Major League Baseball in the U.S. as both a hitter and a pitcher.
Ohtani was a student of Mr. Sasaki, who was a student of Harada. Ohtani sketched out his plan for becoming a professional player in the Japanese league in Harada Method style (PDF link). How much did the Harada Method contribute to Ohtani's success?
Ohtani has now fulfilled his dream, playing this season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, having a first month that has been as exciting as any player's career. He has won three of the six games he has started as a pitcher, nearly throwing a perfect game in his first home start. He's also batting .348 with five home runs in the 20 games he has played as a designated hitter. No player since the legendary Babe Ruth has pitched and hit so well.
Ohtani in Action
A Recent Interview with Norman
I recently saw this article and interview with Bodek in Chief Executive Magazine:
The article says:
At 85, [Bodek] is increasingly convinced that in an era of sub-4% unemployment, deepening workforce skills gaps and increasing automation, the next explosive revolution in manufacturing will come from bringing out the best in every single worker–and the way to do it is the Harada Method. “You pick a goal,” he says. “What do you want in your life, just the way Ohtani did.”
I'm all for personal development, but I'm also reminded of the late, great W. Edwards Deming, who talked about how people work in a system and that “best efforts” are not necessarily enough.
“Hard work will not ensure quality. Best efforts will not ensure quality, and neither will gadgets, computers or investment in machinery.”
Elon Musk has (hopefully) learned this lesson about machinery, as I've blogged about.
I think we can have both:
- Personal development of individuals
- Leaders helping create a system in which people can be successful
As Norman talked about in our podcast, an individual's personal goals might not align with the organization's goals, which causes problems.
As he said in the Chief Executive interview:
“Now the challenge is, can people do what they want to grow, and it satisfies them and satisfies you at the same time? And that's what the Harada Method does.”
I guess we have to find “win/win” situations, as the late, great Stephen Covey talked about (listen to my interview with him). Harada learned from Covey, among others, as the Chief Executive article says.
One thing that's interesting to me about the Harada Method is the focus on listing personal motivations. This reminds me of the coaching and conversation style of “Motivational Interviewing,” something I've been studying and have tried to practice somewhat informally in recent years.
In the Harada method, you sketch out goals, motivations, and purpose in four categories:
- “What's good for you materially?”
- “What's good for you immaterially, intangibly?”
- “Materially, what is good for other people?”
- “What's good for society in an intangible way?”
“The more of these you write, the higher the motivation for you because you, as an individual, know exactly what you want now.”
Writing these goals reminds me of the process of evoking “change talk” (which includes the reasons why you should do something) from a person instead of “sustain talk” (the reasons why you can't or won't).
There are also connections to the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) or Plan-Do-Study-Adjust (PDSA) cycles readers of this blog are probably familiar with.
Have You Tried the Harada Method?
As much as I've been intrigued by the Harada Method, I've never formally tried it and I haven't gone through the training that Norman has suggested.
Have you tried the Harada Method? If so, what do you think? Has it been helpful?
Have you figured out how to balance individual development with systems improvement in organizations? Can you figure out both?
Here is a video webinar where Norman explains the Harada Method: