What can we learn from Parkour?

A friend of mine recently took a parkour training course – a usual Tuesday evening activity for us all, I’m sure – and learnt more than he bargained for.

By definition, parkour is:

“a training discipline where practitioners aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment, without assisting equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible.”

(Thanks, Wikipedia.)

The workplace is certainly a “complex environment”, and we’re definitely trying to get our work done in the “most efficient way possible”, so I think the principles of parkour can be neatly translated into the business world.

Aside from being taught how to climb over 10-foot high walls, my friend revealed the biggest element of the course was, in fact, exploring how to change your mindset to overcome challenges (namely, 10-foot high walls).

The first part of the training took place in a classroom. Having entered the room, my friend had walked around a series of tables to take a seat near the front. The first question the instructor asked him was “why did you walk around the table?” As a parkour expert, I suppose the expectation was that he should have climbed over the tables to reach the final destination. The biggest challenge of parkour (so I am told) is not the climbing and jumping off of buildings, but rewiring your brain to realise that you can jump off the building if it’s the most efficient route.

I think this introduces an interesting question when it comes to our own behaviours in the workplace. How often do we take stock of our own processes at work and think about tackling something differently? When we face challenges, is the route we defaultly take to approaching them the best way to overcome them? Can we climb over the table, rather than walking around it?

Although the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind, I hold the belief that this is a horrendously limiting mindset, and that you never know when you might find a new way to streamline an existing process.

Three things we can learn from parkour

  1. Agility
    To do parkour, as we have already discovered, you must be both physically and mentally agile. Indeed, agility prepares us for the daily roadblocks that we might come across in the workplace and helps us to react quickly. A flexible team is an efficient team, because they spend less time worrying and panicking about what to do and more time actually doing.
  2. Changeability
    Having a more open and – you guessed it – agile mindset woven into the fabric of the team can also help with change when it inevitably rears its head. Rather than fearing it, teams with a more flexible approach to their work can embrace change instead.
  3. Engagement
    Presenting innovative solutions and new ideas to your team can peak their levels of intrigue and interest, and thus re-engage everyone with their work. Working collaboratively, where appropriate, and thinking about different ways to tackle tasks can invigorate employees and pave the way for a more productive way of working.

So, the next time you’re faced with something a bit difficult at work, will you walk around the table to tell your team the news, or will you jump straight on top of it?