Ninja teaches students art of business

Early Saturday morning, a group of 20 students dressed in black could be seen suspiciously lurking around the Tempe campus.

The students were not committing any mischievous deeds. Instead, they were learning the ways of the ninja and how those teachings could make them more effective in the business world.

The event, sponsored by Entrepreneurs@ASU, featured Geordie Aitken, a Canadian business consultant for Aitken Leadership Group, who gave students advice about how to use ninjutsu to be more effective in their everyday lives.

The event culminated ASU’s celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, which ended Friday.

Aitken, who said he had trained in various martial arts for more than a decade, structured the seminar to make students perform tests throughout the campus that incorporated stealth, martial arts and other skills that may be used by real ninjas to accomplish goals.

Though the ninja is commonly seen in media accomplishing serious goals like assassination or espionage, the goals Aitken had the conference attendees participate in were much more humorous in nature.

The stealth training amounted to “sneaking around campus” ¬— walking around with very exaggerated steps to get to their destinations — in ninja outfits.

By Blake Wilson

Attendees were then taught some martial arts training. Keeping with the humorous theme of the day, the striking moves they were taught actually mirrored hand gestures in the game Rock, Paper, Scissors.

By combining serious ideas with humor, he is able to create a more positive learning environment that has a unique appeal to a younger generation, Aitken said.

Aitken said he usually tailors his consulting classes toward an older generation that can be much more stubborn and less receptive.

“We usually deal with engineers ages 26 to 60, and they can be a lot more stubborn about participating and changing habits,” Aitken said to the group of students. “They get frustrated and quit, which you guys did not do.”

Though the training featured games and activities that focused on the physical aspects of the ninja, there were several aspects of the training that focused on unseen elements, such as sharpening students’ minds and understanding their identities.

Aitken had students ask each other personal questions about their goals, fears and aspirations.  He said this assisted students in developing a more complete identity necessary to being a leader.

“The effective leader has access to all parts of him or herself,” Aitken said.

The personal reflection was also designed to help students better trust and work with one another, Aitken said. He asked students to be silent to those around them who were not participating in the training, but to be completely open with one another.

“You’re among friends here,” Aitken said to the group.

Though Aitken prided his teachings on helping students develop a complete understanding of their identity, he said he did not believe that understanding would take away from the normal aggressive nature of business.

“The notion that a certain harmony in oneself is going to counter the cutthroat nature of so much of business dealings would be a bit naïve,” Aitken said.

Life science senior Ray Sumayo said his initial interest in the conference was from his fascination with ninjitsu but he came away with a better understanding of how to be an effective person both in his career and in his everyday life.

“I really enjoyed how much self-reflection was involved,” Sumayo said. “Being focused and efficient like this is going to help me in life.”

Though the ideas taught in the conference revolved around the theme of entrepreneurship, Tony Bui said they could be utilized in other areas as well. Bui, a graduate student of medicine at UA, said these ideas could be applied to the world of medicine.

“It’s cool to learn team building like this,” Bui said. “It’s highly applicable to a hospital environment.”

Reach the reporter at Michael.reppenhagen@asu.edu


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