When I tell my students they will be practicing origami in class until they essentially master the art, they look at me as though I am from a different planet. Their heads tilt to one side, and some even let out small laughs. They think I am joking when I say a large part of our class about skills for the workplace involves simple paper folding. That is, until they start making origami one by one and see for themselves how beneficial it is for strengthening an array of workplace skills.
Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. In its origins, origami was reserved solely for special occasions, such as religious ceremonies. As it evolved, origami became the more wide-spread, common art form we know today (Independent Television Service, 2017, paras. 1-3). It has since been practiced by the masses recreationally – and even sometimes to develop workplace skills!
Through years of research at OFE, we have discovered that high origami skills indicate a person is probably adept at numerous aspects of manual work. Key competencies that can be shown through making origami include dexterity, quality assessment, and following step-by-step instructions, which are skills that are applicable to any workplace.
Manual dexterity refers to one’s “ability to execute controlled movements using hand-eye coordination under specific conditions” (Workplace Testing Inc., 2020, para. 1). These are the skills that allow us to synchronize our hands and fingers and perform tasks such as writing, grasping, or building with our hands. If you write notes or fill out forms, type emails or move or make things with your hands, you are using manual dexterity.
Most jobs require employees to use manual dexterity skills in some form or another, and an excellent way to prepare yourself for this is by practicing origami! The finger control and precise folds needed to accurately replicate an origami form will exercise your hands in a way that will prepare you for more complex fine motor movements. You will gain better muscle memory in your hands which will enable you to perform more efficiently on the job.
Having the ability to check your work for quality is extremely important. Employers want to feel confident that you can recognize errors and be able to prevent mistakes. A couple of the most important items to consider when assessing for quality are completeness and accuracy (Spacey, paras. 5-6). Ask yourself: is my job completely finished? Does it accurately reflect the end goal? If the answer to either of these questions is “no” you can then think what can I do to improve on the work I have produced? and determine how to avoid or fix mistakes.
In origami, the sooner you identify possible errors, the easier they are to fix and the better your product will turn out in the long run. This can easily be applied to the workplace. By using origami to train yourself to automatically search for quality in your work, checking and fine-tuning along the way, you will begin generalizing this habit to other tasks. Your ability to problem solve will also increase because you will naturally start thinking of ways you can improve.
In the workplace, you will probably be given step-by-step procedures that you then have to remember and replicate. The ability to accurately follow directions can make or break your job performance so it is imperative that a good employee follows any instructions they are given down to the smallest detail.
According to Employeepedia (2017), a crucial strategy for being able to follow instructions is actively listening (para. 11). When you are present and concentrating, you can process and store information in your brain more easily for long-term use. Another big part of following instructions is taking notes, summarizing, and clarifying details (paras. 3, 12-13). This will ensure you fully comprehend what is being asked of you before you begin a task. Some tips are to write notes in a language or shorthand that is best for you, draw diagrams, repeat back what was said, rewind and pause a video, and ask questions of the person giving instructions.
Whether you have been folding origami your whole life, have only done it a handful of times, or have never thought about it before, origami can be an excellent way to increase some of your employability skills. You don’t need specially-made origami paper to try it out either – in fact, using regular paper is even better for increasing the challenge!
As a facilitator tasked with developing individuals’ essential skills every day, I highly recommend immersing yourself in the art of origami as often as possible to get ready for future employment. To make it even more worthwhile, set a timer and see how many you can make, then challenge yourself to work faster with better quality each time.
Your new-found affinity for paper folding might just be what makes you stand out the most to a potential employer!
Which origami will you try first? Here are a couple links to some of my favourite origami videos to get you started:
Author: Chelsea Guindon, Facilitator
Employeepedia. (2017, August 2). Following directions: 15 examples for setting performance goals. https://www.employeepedia.com/manage/setting-goals/8213-following-directions-15-examples-for-setting-performance-goals
Independent Television Service. (2017). Between the folds: History of origami. PBS. https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/between-the-folds/history.html
Spacey, J. (2017, June 28). 16 types of work quality. Simplicable. https://simplicable.com/new/work-quality
Workplace Testing Inc. (2020). Manual dexterity. https://www.workplacetesting.com/definition/4135/manual-dexterity