A Very Provocative Dialogue with Mr. Kazuhiko Toyama


Among the books that I recommend to young people are the books by Mr. Kazuhiko Toyama (Ref.1) (links are in Japanese), ‘Yubi ippon no syunen ga shyobu wo kimeru (A finger-tip of obsession decides the winner)’ and  ‘Kaishya wa atama kara kusaru (A company will rot from the head)’.  If you have not read these books yet, I can assure you that they are worth reading.  Mr. Toyama has done a great job at Sangyo Saisei Kiko (Industrial Revitalization Corporation of Japan) and more recently was involved actively in the effort of revitalizing JAL (Japan Air Line)

Three years ago, Mr. Toyama and his colleagues established International Growth Platform and I was invited to its 3rd Anniversary on July 8th.  At preliminary discussions we decided that we should make very provocative comments.

The program opened by a dialogue between Mr. Toyama and Professor Kunio Ito of Hitotsubashi University (in Japanese), followed by a keynote speech by Mr. Hasegawa (Ref.1,2) (links are in Japanese), President and CEO of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd., and the last was a dialogue between Mr. Toyama and myself.  Audience was about 200 people.  I arrived at the venue late so I missed the dialogue session of Mr. Toyama and Professor Ito.

President Hasegawa is a very sharp and able business executive, always speaks up his real views without hesitation and ‘no no-sense’, demonstrates strong leadership in carrying out what he believes is right.  He also earns high reputation at the Davos meeting as a top business leader.  Mr. Toyama and I, standing on the stage throughout the session, exchanged challenging and very provocative views to endorse and enhance the messages delivered by Mr. Hasegawa – his (as always) sharp analysis and drastic points of view reflecting his deep concerns about the future of Japan.  

I said, for example, that weeks before the World Cup games in South Africa I foresaw that the ‘key’ to Japan was to let Honda play as freely as he believes; that in the audience of that day, only several women (below 10) were present; that in Mr. Toyama’s company 80% of the 100 employees are ‘career’ and among them, ‘None’ employed as fresh university graduates or ‘zero’ (and this actually is pretty normal outside of Japan….); that components made in Japan were drastically less in iPad than in iPod.  I also pointed out how Japanese lack ability to recognize the ‘strength’ or ‘weakness’ unique to them, how in general, poor in building global networks of connections on individual basis, or how I hate being told of ‘reasons for why something can not be done'. Our dialogue also included many specific examples as well as specific recommendations.

Frankly, I enjoy this kind of ‘events’.  The reception that followed was filled with excitements, too (as I was told later).  But actually, to be honest, the most important key is how each one of us can take actions from here…..  I sincerely urge each one of you to start actions whatever you can in whatever position you may be.