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Career Success
APR 7, 2010

The Words and Behaviors of Each Individual Change Japan

By Yoshito Hori

Until now, I have held back from voicing my opinions. This is because when you make a statement there will always be objections and criticism. You will also be misunderstood, and create enemies as a result. But I can no longer be this way. Because despite the huge issues that Japan faces, I barely see anyone taking positive action in addressing these issues and problems.

Another reason is that my position is changing. Globis is becoming a leading business school in Japan, and I myself am nearing 50. I am clearly responsible for my own generation, which has strong obligations to the nation. I now intend to continue saying what I have to say, unmindful of criticism.

Owing to the effects of the public punishment of Horiemon(the former CEO of Livedoor), the Murakami Fund and Goodwill, etc., there is a trend even among my fellow entrepreneurs to think that staying unnoticed is better. But it’s important that innovators declare their presence and state their ideas in order to vitalize society.

The clash of the powerful, diverse, and self-asserting personalities is what creates social dynamism. Nothing will come from quiet, serious people. A “harmonious society” sounds nice, but it’s a wafer-thin difference from a “group of people that does nothing,” which does not produce innovation. A “dynamically harmonious society” in the positive sense of the word, can also be produced from clashes of ideas and principles.

If society fully respects individual personalities, approves each other’s diversity, exchanges opinions logically without getting emotional and has the foundations to make rule-based decisions, it can absorb the energy of diverse self-assertions and continue to assume dynamic change.

It doesn’t matter what clothes, hairstyle or facial hair you have – that’s your personality. I believe a society that can strengthen its personalities will produce human resources that can play greater roles on the global stage.
I often hear press conferences and have a hard time understanding why some people say, “I am sorry for causing trouble to society.” I say, “Why? Why are you sorry?” Society decides whether or not it’s upset by something; you don’t decide for society.

Alan Patricof (see Column: “Alan Patricof, the Legendary Venture Capitalist”), a partner of Globis’ venture capital, said something interesting: “Don’t let the devil inflate in your head.” I didn’t understand what it meant, so I asked him. He said that the “devil” refers to a problem. Any small devil (problem) goes on inflating when you continue thinking about it. In other words, a problem, regardless of its magnitude, will expand or contract depending on how you think about it.

This same is true for society. A small problem can become a public issue when the mass media enlarges it. It can even become a “serious problem” when it’s called to the Diet or a public hearing. But it may actually not have been such a big deal. (Though if a problem did come so far, no one would dare say it’s not such a big deal, and someone would, according to social norms, therefore, have to deliver an apology.) In English, they call this politicizing, which is translated as “making something into a political issue.” In other words, the problem is used intentionally for political purposes. But intrinsically, good is good and bad is bad, whether or not society complains about it. I wish our society could someday accept that notion.

Whoever stands out may at times become the target of such political abuse. Admonitory actions of public prosecutors, government administrators or mass media has made reality of the proverb “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” If you stand out, you become a target; which means that going unnoticed is better, and this creates a society in which it looks like no dynamic change is occurring at all. (There actually are many things going on unnoticed, but they could never drive a society because everyone stays quiet.)

I myself have done everything I could quietly. Japan needs to train new people, which is why I have pursued this through Globis. Japan needs new companies and industries, which is why I have attempted to create the next Sony or Honda through venture capital. Japan needs the dynamism of new knowledge, which is why I’ve provided knowledge through publishing.
But I feel that that is not enough. That’s why I took a step further and started writing my opinions. I myself have feelings against standing out, but I can no longer feel that way. Circumstances are changing. People now share a lot of the same awareness of crisis in society.

The evolution of IT has “given the indivisual a more powerful tool for communication” (second hypothesis of my “Seven Hypotheses on Twitter” ), and “Personal information outrivals the mass media” (fourth hypothesis). With such an environment, I think we can achieve grassroots reforms.

It is essential that each individual speaks out and takes action from his or her own position. I advocate this, so I intend to speak out about anything that I notice and take action without shying away. I have many great politician friends who are of my generation, and many others in the economic, cultural and media circles. I’ve also expanded friendships on Twitter. It is encouraging to have many allies.

Speaking out and taking action, locally and individually: that’s what starts Japan’s reform.

February 28, 2010
Yoshito Hori