Yoshito Hori, president of GLOBIS University, managing partner of GLOBIS Capital Partners, shares his views from an entrepreneur’s perspective.

This year I promised myself I would not get drunk at the conference, but I ended up drinking too much again. Japan Night and GLOBIS Night were both resounding successes. I ended up drinking until 2 in the morning and woke up with a hangover. Despite this, I woke up a little after 6am as I had an important board meeting from 7:30am. After checking my emails I took the shuttle bus to the Davos conference hall.

The board meeting was for the Global Growth Companies, for which I serve as a chair. At present a total of more than 400 companies are recognized as Global Growth Companies at the World Economic Forum. Members from Japan include SBI, Monex Group, LINE, Oisix, istyle and Advantage Partners. Other members include world-renowned companies such as IDEO. I have participated in this board meeting since 2010. In 2013, I was selected as the second co- chairman and then became the sole chairman in 2015. It is quite rare to have a Japanese person serve as chairman of a global organization.

My role as chairman of this board meeting is to oversee proceedings and speak at various events. As someone who has been participating in this meeting for six years, I am now one of the oldest members. I have an amicable relationship with all the other board members. The majority of the members are from the US, South Africa, the Middle East/Dubai, China, the UK, and India. In the past six years I have not missed a single board meeting. Commitment to be there every time to exert your presence is a key factor for participating in international meetings. Being absent only weakens your position within the group.

After the 90-minute meeting was over, I returned to the hotel to prepare for my luncheon speaking engagement. Starting this year, I have increased my Internet information-gathering efforts. In addition to exchanging opinions at the conference, back at my hotel room I follow tweets, blogs, and newspaper reports, as well as watch videos and live feeds broadcast by the World Economic Forum.

I check the sessions I could not attend because they were already filled to capacity or for some other reason. The World Economic Forum website offers a fairly substantial amount of information. It is very useful. The site provides a real and broad understanding of key global opinions without even having to go to Davos.

In addition, opinions in the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal are extremely influential. Feature stories are broadcast on television by major news sources such as CNN, BBC World News, and Bloomberg. Some of them are available on the Internet. Also, by following key participants on Twitter, you can grasp the details of sessions without actually participating in them. These sources can give insight into different perspectives of opinions espoused at the forum. While face-to-face exchanges that take place at the conference are important, online interactions can also be very informative. This year I spent more time participating in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2015 in Davos via the Internet from my hotel room.

As the luncheon meeting drew near, I headed out to take the six-seat shuttle bus to the venue. Meetings are held at various locations throughout the city of Davos. The main conference hall is called the Davos Congress Centre. In general, breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings are held at hotels outside of the main conference hall. The whole city is transformed into one big conference hall to host the annual meeting. In addition to its route around the city, the shuttle bus also connects Davos with the neighboring town of Kloster. There are four bus routes in all.

The luncheon meeting for which I acted as a spekaer was held at the Intercontinental Hotel. The construction of this magnificent hotel was completed just last year. However, it is a bit far from the city center so you have to take the shuttle, you cannot walk. Because it is located far away, the view from the hotel is completely different. It is like a black-and-white backdrop that has been captured in an India ink painting. The white mist shrouded the white mountains making for an elegant landscape.

The theme of the session I spoke at was “Reshaping Education.” The president of the National University of Singapore served as moderator. The president of Oxford University also participated as a speaker. The theme of education is extremely broad and lacks a specific focus and the other speakers included an entrepreneur from Israel who talked about introducing EdTech to elementary schools and a business woman working in the area of video game education in South Africa.

I spoke about what we do at GLOBIS. I received a terrific response. The rest of the world is still focusing on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). However, as one would expect, the limitations of the MOOCs platform are already beginning to surface, so a gradual shift to a hybrid system has started. MOOCs provide uni-directional education, so the benefits of the hybrid system are that, people can proceed to discussion-oriented, interactive classes after taking MOOCs courses. But that is as far as it goes.

A professor from Stanford University pointed out that we need to move away from the knowledge-based education of the industrial era towards a new educational system to develop creativity as well as analytical and decision-making capabilities for complex problem-solving. MOOCs have obvious limitations in that respect. After this topic was debated, it was time for my five-minute presentation.

“GLOBIS aims to foster intelligence, not to impart knowledge. We believe that students should learn from each other and not just from textbooks and lectures. There are no “correct” answers, so we look for optimal solutions. Based on this concept, we have grown from our humble beginning of at a single apartment room and a few rented classrooms, to a full-fledged graduate school nine years ago. We have become one of Japan’s most prominent graduate schools of business in terms of both scale and university rankings. We have campuses in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sendai, and Fukuoka, and offer MBA courses in Japanese and English. Our student body consists of students from different countries throughout the world. We started from zero and built a graduate school that is today almost on a par with the likes of Harvard and Oxford.”

The audience was surprised to hear that such a school existed. After a slight pause I continued.

“Last year we began offering an online MBA via Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs). Few students drop out because the courses are “small and private” rather than “massive and open”.

Judging from feedback comments from our students, our online courses can offer the same level of learning experience as traditional, face-to-face classes. In fact, the satisfaction level for the online MBA course is actually higher. Our online graduate school will make a full-fledged start in April this year. As we expected, the majority of students do not live in neighborhoods surrounding any of our five campuses. We have students coming from abroad. Adults who are on leave from work to raise their children have also signed up for this course. Our system will offer educational opportunities to people who cannot physically commute to school.” I ended by saying, “The future direction of education will shift to online courses, with traditional education becoming more of a supplementary approach.”

After I finished, participants broke up into groups to discuss this topic. Having gone out into the world, one thing I have discovered about GLOBIS’ educational model is that it is disruptive to traditional approaches. GLOBIS is like no other school in the world. It started from nothing and now offers a leading MBA program in Japan in multiple languages, locations, and time slots. Now we are adding online MBA courses to this. I believe this is the true definition of “Reshaping Education.”

There were a number of people who participated in the session just to meet me and also people who had attended GLOBIS Night the previous evening. They were in a good mood, saying they had received two disposal hand-heating pads at GLOBIS Night. I truly feel like GLOBIS is steadily making a name for itself worldwide. This is the sixth straight year I have had the opportunity to speak at Davos. I have spoken on a relatively broad range of topics, including leadership, education, and venture capital. I aim to continue to do my best to contribute to the world.

In the afternoon, I mainly participated in technology-related sessions. And that night I attended events where I exchanged opinions with Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, and Heizo Takenaka. Hakubun Shimomura, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, is already on his way back to Japan but Yoichi Miyazawa, the Minister of Economic Trade and Industry (METI) is scheduled to attend the conference tomorrow. The World Economic Forum Japan team including Akira Tsuchiya, is fully prepared to handle the remainder of the conference. I feel like Japan’s presence is gradually becoming stronger.

I am also gradually enhancing my own presence. In addition to co-sponsoring Japan Night and hosting GLOBIS Night, I appeared in ads run in special editions of the Wall Street Journal and the Japan Times covering the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. I served as a chair, spoke at several sessions, and handled questions from the floor and networked.

As I said in the beginning, the method for boosting Japan’s presence globally is simple. More Japanese people have to become active in the global arena. Japan will make its mark in the world of sports if players such as Kosuke Kitajima, Ichiro, Keisuke Honda, and Kei Nishikori continue to excel in their respective fields of swimming, baseball, soccer, and tennis. In the same fashion, if each of us can make our mark internationally in our own fields, Japan will enhance its overall presence in the world. I myself and GLOBIS aim to fulfill our roles and responsibilities by taking on challenges in areas such as education and venture capital business.

I needed to cure my hangover from all the drinking I did the previous night so I refrained from drinking on this night and quietly went to bed. Outside the snow was falling. The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2015 in Davos is gearing up for its final lap.

January 25, 2015
On the plane on the way home from Davos
Yoshito Hori