Olympic Games style graphic of Judo figures. Text headline is System Blame Judo

Taking responsibility is hard. Organisations, like private corporations and governments, have however, found a way of avoiding that responsibility and that hard work.

It is a form of judo. Using the weight and momentum of the issue and flipping it so it ends up being transferred to someone else.

In System Blame Judo it is the responsibility that is held by a limited number of organisations that is transferred to thousands of individuals. The need to act or to change shifts from being a problem that organisations must take responsibility for to something that many people can be blamed for.

It is important to recognise that this move shifts responsibility but not capability. Only the system layer has the resources and capacities to act efffectively. The judo move means that nothing can happen as the organisations have chosen to blame individuals rather than take action.

The momentum to take action is transformed into gaslighting in System Blame Judo. The groups that could have taken responsibility and taken action are now using their resources to blame failure onto people without the responsibility or capability.

Examples

The Seventies were a decade when new laws came in to stop historic problems with unfair employment practices and environmentally damaging manufacturing processes. Laws were brought in to stop organisations excluding people on the basis of race or gender. Laws came in to stop toxic chemical dumping and regulate toxins and smoke from manufacturing processes.

These are clearly good things but responsibility for change lay with organisations and those changes were going to be costly.

What happened is corporate lawyers invented System Blame Judo.

Instead of changing employment systems, corporations shifted blame onto employees. Either people were being unreasonable in their demands for action now or the problem lay in a few individual racist/sexist managers. Diluting responsibility across people without power meant nothing systematic changed. Corporate lawyers and Human Resources departments were happy to enable many, many industrial tribunals if they kept showing that specific individuals were to blame rather than the overall system.

In environmental terms, the massive damage wrought by huge corporations was flipped into blaming individuals for driving cars or failing to recycle a few bits of plastic. The large but limited systems of extraction and production were maintained while millions of individuals were gaslit into thinking it was all their fault.

COP26

The powerful using their power to shift blame but not capability onto the powerless.

It’s a trick.

It’s System Blame Judo.

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX