Asia Innovation Forum; Eyes to see Japan from “outside”



As I introduced to you in my recent column, the “Asia Innovation Forum” opened at Roppongi Hills for two days on September 14th  and 15th under the initiative of Mr. Idei, the former CEO of SONY. By looking at the program you may see that “Group 20” worked very hard to make this happen and I am proud with the result.  I was also delighted to see so many people coming.  We used Twitter and web cast to achieve more effect.

From the beginning we planned this year’s forum mainly for Japanese so there were only a few non-Japanese participants.  I was unfortunately unable to attend the start of the first day due to other obligations, but the sessions seemed to have run pretty well.  The speakers were all very qualified as well as good debaters with so much to say that the moderators had hard time trying to spare enough length of time for each of them.  The moderators all did wonderful job.

I managed to attend whole day on the 2nd day.  I saw Mr. Ken Okuyama (Ref.1) after a long time at lunch.  He has a wonderful talent to speak of big views and to take actions.  President Fukutake of Benesse Co. gave an attractive speech on the world famous “Naoshima” island.  A warm, gentle style of Dr. Yonekura in moderating the succeeding panel was also nice.  The last panel by “Group 20” ran a bit short of time unfortunately.  Dr. Sadako Ogata delivered a closing remark. There was also a session by people aiming to be social entrepreneurs.  It was a remarkable close-up.

We used “Twitter” for something new and Webcast was also available.  Thanks to staffs for their hard work.

The “Group20” might appear strangely different for traditional Japanese business people.  Its members are comprised of young leaders that possess high ability to challenge the global age, a completely different type compared to traditional “elites”.  On the other hand, however, I saw a weakness in their words because their views were only from the standpoint of home country ? not being able to look at the world affairs apart from Japanese point of view.  I have the impression that they are not really being able to see or feel Japan “from international point of view”.  But this is precisely the point how people of the world see Japan.  Maybe it is because these young Japanese people have no experience of living abroad for a long period as an individual, free from Japanese organizations or companies.  If you are working for a Japanese company, no matter how long you have lived abroad it is nothing but a “long business trip” because you would be acting in accordance to the instructions of the management.  You would not be free from Japanese society or culture of Japanese business.  I saw this problem being expressed in many questions raised by non-Japaneses who participated in the panels.  It is important to understand your “strength” and “weakness”.  You are all our precious human asset with whom we entrust the future of Japan.

My closing comment was structured around this “lack of overseas experience” in Japanese young people.  I also pointed out that talents of women are being wasted which was another big problem.  The latter issue was discussed in an article next day in “Newsweek International” (Sept.21 edition) featuring “the Female Factor” (see the picture at the top) titled “The Real Emerging Market”.  Such discussion is not only my view (you will find this theme repeatedly in my blog), but also a world trend.  Thinking of Japan as a different, special country is a terrible mistake.  So I made the tone of my comment stronger than usual.  Let me remind you that the theme of this year “The Earth’s Limits. Asia’s Growth and Japan’s Role” was selected because people expect a lot from Japan.  There are so many things that we can and must do.  Action is everthing.