On May 14th, I was at the Bank of Japan to give a lecture. It was a bit surprising that I was invited, but I was given 2 hours. Unfortunately, Mr. Shirakawa, the Governor, could not join due to some unexpected duty, but there were about 50 people including Deputy Governor Nishimura. They all must be smart and brilliant people (I am sure), but I regret to say that all of them were men (actually there were 2 women sitting at the side….)
The theme given to me was ‘Japan’s Stagnant Economy; How We Find the Wayout’. I brought my outline, charts, references, and several copies of ‘Sekai kyu kyaria no tsukurikata (How to build a global career)’ which I co-authored with Professor Yoko Ishikura, and ‘Inovation Shiko-Ho (How to Make an Innovative Mind)’ as a gift.
As you may know, Harvard University recently has made ‘On-line’ a series of lectures by Professor Michael Sandel on ‘Justice’ to the public for the first time in its history; it is because of its tremendous popularity among the students. The lecture captures the listener’s mind right from the start- it’s such a series of wonderful lecture- and the series are being broadcasted on the NHK Education TV channel every Sunday evening (and also late at night…).
So, I started my seminar at the Bank of Japan in a similar style, first asking questions. Perhaps, I surprised the audience? After all, it is ‘Bank’ and of course its atmosphere would make such kind of experiment a bit difficult… So, especially young people might have been somewhat startled. I do understand that it is not easy to speak up in front of all those people.
There was some kind of ambience in the air especially discouraging open and interactive discussion and exchange. But this ambience precisely is the reason, the cause of the ‘oppressing and discouraging young people to speak out’ feelings that prevail in our (Japanese) society today. I, of course, pointed this out, too, as a very reason of stagnant economy of Japan.
Japanese society is unique in its mind-set and inherent value perhaps in the last 400 years- taking for granted their male-centered hierarchial organizations, seniority based promotion, social hierarchy that starts with the rank of university entrance exams-scores of the university you were admitted to ? and this uniqueness is very much the basic cause of our nation’s inability in adjusting to the rapid changes of this flattening global world- in one word, lack of flexibility. To take advantage of the nation’s ‘strength’, our lack of ability to recognize our ‘weakness’ or to take actions – these themes also run throughout my blog postings as one of my ‘core messages’.
I would say that the typical examples that dramatically represented such themes were the ‘Toyota Problems’ and competition of the nuclear power plant bid at the United Arab Emirates won by Korean team.
Giving a lecture at such prestigious place is a valuable opportunity. I was honored just to be invited. I would be very happy to have another opportunity for challenge.