midsection of woman showing sign language

How Competence at Work Pays Off

Nowadays we face with more and more mediocrity at work, and this is transversal to all the jobs.

In this story you are going to read about how competence at work pays off.

We are in 587, in Japan, on Mount Shigi. Prince Shōtoku is in an unfortunate position. For two days, his clan has been retreating, pushed by his enemies of the Mononobe family. The end seems near. But how can he accepts to die at only 13 years old?

To restore his courage, the prince made a wish in front of all his men: if he won the battle, he would build a Buddhist temple. It is Shôtoku intention to convert his country to Buddhism. And that was the reason why the Mononobes started the conflict (Sounds familiar? We never learn from the past!).

Shortly after this vow, the situation is reversed, and Shôtoku crushes his enemies! Now he must honor the promise to build the temple. For this, the prince goes to look for carpenters to Korea: the Kongō Gumi.

Six years after his victory over Mount Shigi, Shôtoku financed as promised the Shi Tennō-ji Temple, which can still be admired today in Osaka. But the story doesn’t end there… At least for our Korean carpenters.

The Kongō Gumi company, founded about fifteen years before the building of this temple, will experience an exceptional longevity. More than 1400 years! The company does not disappear until 2006, when they became victims of a speculative bubble that brought with it the real estate investments of the company. The Kongō Gumi still exist, but as a subsidiary of a construction company.

What was the secret of this incredible family of carpenters?  The business was not passed on from father to the eldest son. The head of the family chose from among their children the one who would be most likely to make the business prosper. Competence was set as a priority. The second last leader was a woman: Yoshie. And she was the one who, in 1934, restored the Shi Tennō-ji Temple, built by her ancestors.

I think we all believe that any kinds of job need competence to be performed. Meritocracy should be more valued in our society. It is not because one member of your family appoints you to carry out a job that you would do it well. I don’t know in your country, but in Italy there are still some jobs that are passed from father or mother to one of their children. And in some case, I am afraid to say that the results are very poor.

How would you value the importance of competence in your job?

Painting by Brecht Vandenbroucke – Photo by Cristiana Branchini

6 thoughts on “How Competence at Work Pays Off

  1. Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking post! I believe that meritocracy also reveals that the apparent “person” demostrating meritable behavour is most likely living their passion and purpose. It’s most challenging (impossible?) to thrive at something we do not love to do.

  2. What an extraordinary story! I find it fascinating – not just in the great way that you told it but in wondering how you come across these interesting stories.

    Competence in my line of work (computer consulting) is directly related to curiosity and adaptability. Because it’s the only way that one can stay productive in a field that constantly changes. Some people find that more comfortable than others.

    Great post, Cristiana!

    1. Thank you Wynne! Actually I come across to different stories by looking for topics I would like to write about and narrowing my search. Japan is also a good reference for peculiar and interesting stories. Congratulations for your competence! Indeed you line of work is constantly changing!

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