Singapore, Okinawa and energy of young people


After "Obon" (a vacation season in Japan relating to celebration of ancestors), I went to Singapore for the meeting of board of directors of A*STAR, from Aug. 20th to 22nd.  The venue was newly established Fusionopolis (The opening ceremony will be held in October).  Finally, an ambitious attempt of uniting biotechnology with science and engineering field has started.  On 21st, the day of meeting of board of directors, an awarding ceremony for contributors took place with high spirits in the evening. Minister of industry was also present as a Guest of Honor.  There was really motivation and vigor.  Many young people, both researchers and clerical workers, have also taken an active part.

Then I went to Okinawa on 24th.  Had participated in the "Asian Youth Exchange Program". The original idea is from our proposal, where about 80 youths (age 14 to 17) from various Asian countries and Japan (from Okinawa and mainland) spend three weeks together in Okinawa and interact with each other.  "Haisai Diary" of the program’s website was full of cheerful photographs and reports.  I think the basic spirit of this program can be read from my message also.

I participated in "Scientist Symposium" on that day.  Dr. Noriko Osumi who is doing brain research in Tohoku university, Dr. Tsuchiya, known for coral research is Director of Science Department in Ryukyu University (I am thankful for his kind assistance in The21st Pacific Sience Congress last year.  Now, he has become executive director of this scientific society), Dr. Ishiwatari who was involved in the development of "OlycetNet", at Sumitomo Chemicals, an epoch-making mosquito net effective for malaria, have participated in this meeting.  Dr. Shiomitsu of Ochanomizu University was the chairperson.  Students who have participated were energetic, seemed to be in good spirits which made me very happy.  Of course, the common language was "Broken English".

Some university students also helped.  They were foreign students of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, which is located in Oita.  Exchanges like this at the young age widens outlook, acknowledges differences, and raises friendships more than anything else.  I am excited about what their future brings after 10 years, 20 years.  It’s thrilling.  I would like to see more of such activities like exchange home stay on summer vacations etc. start voluntarily in schools across the country.

Dr. Osumi went to the airport immediately after finishing the panel.  She posted her blog in the evening of the same day, which is very fast.  Photographs as well as the writing were good.

I went to see "Eisa festival" celebrated on the whole Okinawa Island with Mr. Fukui, head of Okinawa General Bureau supervised by the Cabinet Office.  Especially, "Ryukyu-Country festival Taiko" was excellent(photo1-3).  After that, I was invited for dinner.

Okinawa08081photo 1

Okinawa08084photo 2

Okinawa08086photo 3

Thanks to all for your help and support.

Executive personnel management- simple questions from an outsider?


I was interviewed by Nihon Keizai Shinbun for a column called "Airspace violation".  It is an interview report and aims to have a person present open questions about things other than his/her profession.   Although I had several themes in my mind, I decided to talk about personnel management of enterprises.  The article appeared in the morning edition page 5 on Aug. 4th, 2008, under the heading of " ‘Tenures’ are not appropriate for executives.  Decide according to their performance and actual results." The article is as follows. Gist of my remarks are in the quotation marks.

■ We understand that you have doubts about "Tenure" of business executives?
"I hear that there are many enterprises which have customs or byelaws that set presidents’ tenure as 2 terms of 4 years or 3 terms of 6 years.  But does it make any sense?  I hardly think that the governance of Japanese enterprises so far was good enough just because they have a tenure system. "

■Current trend is to shorten the tenure of top managements of large industries. Along the trend, many enterprises are shortening the term of office of CEO from 2 conventional years to 1 year.
"If manager’s term of office is set short, he/she won’t consider the business on long term scales.  Suppose some problem occurs during the tenure.  I suspect that it will not be solved by he/her but will be transferred to their successor."  "Same things happen in governments as well as universities, the field where I come from.  As government officials are replaced one after another the problems go on passing to the successors.  Since tenure of deans and president of university is short, talent training cannot be planned from long term perspectives."

■On the other hand, there are adverse effects if the tenure is prolonged and also criticisms about "problems caused by aged people".
"For ‘problems caused by aged people’, you can simply set young presidents in their 40s.  Then even after serving for 10 years, his/her age will still be below 60.  There are some cases, like Sharp or Hotel Okura, which had presidents in their 40s.  However, in large industries in Japan, the number of young managers is still very small.  What is required of a leader is; vision, ability of conveying the vision to the other people, intellectual and physical strength, and strong faith.  Age is irrelevant.  Younger talents should be selected."  "Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that ‘long term control’ is always no good.  There are many founders of corporations in Japan, like Mr. Akio Morita of Sony, who demonstrated wonderful management skills for a long period of time.  There may be many employed managers who can achieve excellent results in their long term tenure."

■Problem is not the short or long length of tenure?
"The point is not to set tenure but to build a mechanism so that the ability and achievement of a manager is evaluated objectively and in case any problem arises, the mechanism must work to have him removed immediately.  But how many Japanese enterprises actually have such structure functioning? If a company can not have a person to retire till completion of his customary tenure we must say that governance does not exist."

■One more word, please.
Once you become a professor, you will be safe till retirement.  This is also strange.

■A word from the interviewer.
How should we select and evaluate the heads of management?  It is a very important issue connecting to the base of enterprise governance.  There are cases where external reporters or external directors participate in selection of the succeeding director but such advanced examples are yet very few.  How do Japanese managers answer to those simple questions about executives raised by Dr. Kurokawa? (Editing committee, Yoshiyuki Miyata)

I expect there will be various opinions, points regarding the contents of this article.  Although I spoke for a long time they had to summarize it in a little space.  Anyway, pushing theory of your own is useless in this era of global economy, especially if it is the world’s second great economic nation.  It is a matter of credibility of a business, a nation.  In this information age, governance with transparency is the basis of company’s worth. Not limited to enterprise, everything is transparent from the world even if you tried to hide.  And here lies the challenges of "Flat age".

Some of the arguments about this article have appeared at Nikkei Net PLUS.  You are able to read them by registration (free).  What do you think?

Again from New Delhi


Here I am in New Delhi for the second time in this year(Refer 1, 2 ).  Following last year, purpose of the visit is for the Health and Welfare Minister Advisory Council meeting lead by Jeffrey Sachs as before.  The meeting was held for 2 days.  On the second day, face to face discussion between us and Dr. Ramadoss, Minister of Health and Welfare, and advisory committee was held for about 3 hours.  The minister replied clearly to the comments and questions one by one.  I felt that he had a clear recognition and plans for the problems.  You can see the report contents on the website.

The results of health services in the regions of India (rural area and slum area) for these 3 years are emerging clearly.  Also, it is expected that the budget for the health service will be increased along with the economic growth.  Medical expenses in India are 1% of GDP.  It is extremely rare and it is an exceptional country.  I expect that the services will be improved even though there are lot of problems. But the success is still far away.  I think this medical policies for rural areas in India should be more referred to by developing countries. 

Dr. Hara at Health Policy Institute Japan, accompanied me as it was in last year.  We invited my friend Ashok Khosla, President of "Club of Rome" and Dr. Sunil Chacko (whom I introduced earlier) to dinner, and we had a wonderful time together (photo 1).  Also, it was a great pleasure to have an opportunity to meet Mr. Oscar Fernandes, the Minister of Labor through the introduction by Dr. Chacko and Dr. Mishra, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Indira Gandhi Naitonal Open University (photo 2).  It was 10 o’clock in the evening, yet still lots of people were waiting to see him and his work was not over yet at all.  He is such a person, they say.


Photo1 Dr. Khosla (in the center) with Dr. Chacko and Dr. Hara


Photo2 From the right with Dr. Mishra, Dr. Chacko and Minister Fernandos

To medical students from Asia: Cheers for young people and 3 speeches


There is a gathering of medical students from Asia known as AMSC (Asian Medical Students Conference).  This conference is held annually, and I was invited for the last 3 years.  I enjoy this event every time.  I like to be a part of such conference of youth organizations since they are pillars of the future human resource.  This was the 29th year and the conference was held at Tokyo.  I talked in the closing ceremony.  I heared that about 400 students have participated.  The point of my speech was the tremendous change that had occurred in these 29 years and about the globalization era.  I also talked about on "3 speeches."

The 3 speeches were, the speech given by Steve Jobs at commencement ceremony of Stanford University in the year 2005 (I told the students that "I hope and look forward that this 1 week conference become a "dot" of your career."),  speech given by Bill Gates at commencement ceremony of Harvard University in 2007 (It was about recognition of and consciousness for "Inequality" in the world and society.) and the "Last Lecture" of Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University (About the childhood "Dream."  Even if you face many problems, do not forget that you all had a "Dream" to become doctors.  Refer 1, 2 ).

You can have a look at these speeches on YouTube.  Each one of them is a wonderful speech.  The "Last Lecture" of Professor Pausch became a book and Japanese translation was published just a few days ago.

It must have been a lot of work for staff students who organized this conference.  It was really a wonderful conference.