Businesspeople reach to the center of a table to hold up a plant, each playing their own role in sustainability-driven innovation
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SECI Model

The SECI model illustrates how knowledge is created and shared. Learn how to put it to use for best practices, and how the Japanese concept of “ba” fits in to broaden your perspective.

Johari Window Model

The Johari Window Model is a self-awareness framework that helps you better understand . . . you. Learn how its four quadrants can help you identify gaps between how you see yourself, and how others see you.

Sunk Costs

Wondering if you should continue an investment or look for something new? Sunk costs can have a powerful psychological impact on decision-making. Learn how to recognize them to ensure rational decisions.

CAGE Distance Framework

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Groupthink

Groupthink refers to group pressure and the perception of consensus which together lead to ill-formed decisions—or even unnecessary risks. Learn to identify the warning signs of groupthink and apply countermeasures in this online course.

Deductive and Inductive Reasoning

Solving problems with the best results means using two types of thinking: deductive and inductive reasoning. In this online course, learn to form a broad premise, make observations, and form conclusions from different perspectives.

Critical Thinking: Hypothesis-Driven Thinking

Anyone can come up with a good idea. The real challenge is putting that idea into action. In this online course, explore how to form compelling, testable hypotheses and bring ideas to life in your own organization.

Critical Thinking: Structured Reasoning

Even a few simple techniques for logical decision making and persuasion can vastly improve your skills as a leader. Explore how critical thinking can help you evaluate complex business problems, reduce bias, and devise effective solutions.

Critical Thinking: Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is a central business skill, and yet it's the one many people struggle with most. This course will show you how to apply critical thinking techniques to common business examples, avoid misunderstandings, and get at the root of any problem.

How to Dream

Join globally renowned author and Columbia Business School professor Dr. Sheena Iyengar as she explains how to approach your dreams with a new perspective. Learn to reflect on what you long to accomplish and what stands in your way.

Logical Thinking

Logical thinking is at the heart of confident, persuasive decisions. This course will equip you with a five-point approach to more becoming a more logical thinker. Learn to classify ideas and distinguish fact from opinion.

Investing & Diversity: The Changing Faces of Venture Capitalists

Is the venture capital industry embracing diversity in investors? Watch global venture capitalists from around the world discuss the state of things and what needs to be done for a more inclusive future.

Servant Leadership

There's more to leadership than driving a team to profit. In fact, there's a word for looking beyond self-interest to prioritize individual growth: servant leadership. Try this course for a quick breakdown of what that is, how it works, and how it can lead to organizational success.

Organizational Behavior and Leadership

Ever wonder what makes a great leader? Whether your role requires leadership or not, understanding organizational behavior is useful for your career. This course from GLOBIS Unlimited can set you on your way.

Leadership vs. Management

Leadership and management are different skills, but today’s leaders must have both. Try out this course from GLOBIS Unlimited to understand the difference, as well as when and why each skill is necessary for motivation, communication, and value.

Strategy: Creating Value Inside Your Company

Have you ever wondered why certain companies are more successful than others? The answer is strategy: internal processes that control costs, allocate resources, and create value. This course from GLOBIS Unlimited can give you the tools you need for that strategic edge.

Strategy: Understanding the External Environment

To plan strategy on any level, you need to understand your company's external environment. In fact, your level of understanding can impact hiring, budgeting, marketing, or nearly any other part of the business world. Want to learn how to do all that? This course from GLOBIS Unlimited is the perfect first step!

Using Japanese Values to Thrive in Global Business

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Turnaround Leadership: The Differences Between Japan and the West

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Conflict Management

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Evernote Founder: How Tech Startups Can Break through in Japan

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Women Empowerment: Lessons from Cartier

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Marketing: Reaching Your Target

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Marketing Mix

Seeing good products into the hands of customers is no easy task. The marketing mix can help. It's a collection of strategies and tactics companies utilize to get customers to purchase their products or services, and is an essential part of the overall marketing process.

The Principles of Negotiation

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Negotiation: Creating Value

Want to create more shared value between yourself and your negotiation opponent? Discover how cognitive bias affects the judgment of others. Try this course from GLOBIS Unlimited to master the value of negotiation.

Finding Your Life Purpose with Ikigai

Ikigai can guide you in your quest for self-discovery. Listen to Japanese brain scientist Ken Mogi explain why and how.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Want to leverage Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as a leader? Try this short course to see how the theory can be applied in practical work scenarios.

Confirmation Bias

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An Investor's Lesson to Entrepreneurs

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Managerial Accounting

Managerial accounting is a powerful way to measure progress, identify problems, and meet your goals. Check out this course to learn how data-backed decisions can help you run your business.

Finance Basics: 1

For a healthy mix of quantitative planning, evaluation, and management, you need solid decision-making. And finance is the secret sauce! Get the essentials of finance in this two-part course from GLOBIS Unlimited.

Basic Accounting: Financial Analysis

Want to compare your performance vs. a competitor? Or evaluate a potential vendor? Then you'll need to conduct a financial analysis. This course will teach you how to use three financial statements and evaluate financial performance in terms of profitability, efficiency, soundness, growth, and overall strength.

Career Anchors

What drives you to be good at your job?

Career anchors are based on your values, desires, motivations, and abilities. They are the immovable parts of your professional self-image that guide you throughout your career journey.

Try this short GLOBIS Unlimited course to identify which of the eight career anchors is yours!

Digital Marketing Psychology to Transform Your Business

How does digital marketing really differ from traditional marketing? How is social media changing things really? And what's going on in Asia?

Pyramid Structure

Having the pyramid structure in your communication toolkit can not only help you approach a problem, but convince others that your solution is valid. Break away from linear thinking and test your logical thinking with this course from GLOBIS Unlimited!

Leadership with Passion through Kokorozashi

The key ingredient to success? Passion.

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AI First Companies – Implementation and Impact

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Technovate in the Era of Industry 4.0

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Technovate Thinking

Business leaders of tomorrow need to harness the power of technology and innovation. That means understanding algorithms and how they drive business results. Discover opportunities to make technology work for your competitive edge.

Product Life Cycle

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Logic Tree

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MECE Principle

Using the MECE principle can help ensure you categorize without gaps or overlaps. Check out this course from GLOBIS Unlimited for a practical demonstration of how it works!

The environment is in major trouble. To save it, we need innovation. But to ensure a better future for generations to come, we need sustainability-driven innovation.

If you’re wondering how to find a job in sustainability or become a part of innovation for long-term impact, you’re not alone. There are a lot of up-and-coming-jobs in the corporate world to help existing organizations become more sustainable. Entrepreneurs, too, are starting companies with big plans to impact society. But there is another approach to making a difference: helping other innovators grow.

Akira Sakano and So Sugawara, two young leaders from the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community, established the Green Innovator Project (GIP) last year with the latter in mind. Their goal is to nurture 1,000 innovators who will help create a positive cycle between the global economy and environment by 2030. To achieve this, they’re enabling collaboration between academia, governments, businesses, and powerful civilians.

Sakano was named a “Nikkei Woman of the Year 2022” for her continuous work creating zero-waste communities across Japan with Zero Waste Japan. But even with such credentials, engaging various stakeholders and growing 1,000 innovators is a lofty goal.

Those seeking a sustainable job might start by asking a common question: What are the three pillars of a sustainable business? Google can easily find that answer. But if you’re curious about the more unique roles within a sustainability project, Sakano has a different idea: Wind, Water, and Soil.

These may sound like unlikely innovation job titles, but Sakano’s experience has shown how they can shape a career to give a sustainable job meaning and impact.

So, what are these Wind, Water, and Soil roles? And how can we nurture people to embody them—or even fill them ourselves?

Akira Sakano shares her experiences with sustainability-driven innovation
Akira Sakano has built a career on promoting sustainability-driven innovation.

Developing a Career Path Framework with Wind, Water, and Soil

Sakano’s unique innovation process involves nurturing three specific types of next-generation leaders in sustainability: Wind (kaze no hito), Water (mizu no hito), and Soil (tsuchi no hito). Each plays a crucial role in implementing and maintaining impact on the ground. They also critically link with each other.

The original concept behind these elemental roles was introduced by +arts, a Japanese NPO that promotes disaster prevention at the local level. Sakano met with representatives of +arts during a Japan Foundation project. Over time, she realized that their Wind, Water, and Soil concept can double as a guide for developing a career path framework:

  • Wind members spread the “seeds” of innovative thinking throughout the local community. It’s the job title for someone who comes up with ideas and makes proposals, like planners and designers.
  • Water members are the middlemen—they grow the seeds Wind members drop and lay the groundwork (so to speak) for Soil members, who come next. Water roles are often filled by entities such as NPOs.
  • Soil members make sure the seeds spread by Wind and nurtured by Water are not temporary, but sustainable at the local level. This role often falls to local citizens, town council members, and the like.

Wind, Water, and Soil roles shouldn’t be confused with a personality test. Your responsibility in one project may be Water, but in the next, you might serve as Soil. The point is that, with Wind, Water, and Soil roles all working together, sustainability-driven innovation projects go more smoothly and last longer.

Throughout her career working in sustainability projects, Sakano has embodied each role. She started with Water.

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Water for Young Innovation

Kamikatsu-cho is a town in Tokushima famous for its zero-waste movement. In 2003, it became the first municipality in Japan to declare a plan for zero waste. Now, seventeen years later, more than 80% of Kamikatsu-cho’s waste is recycled thanks to the continuous effort of residents who practice forty-five types of waste segregation.

They never could have done it without Water.

Sakano has observed that Water is the role most often lacking in sustainability-driven innovation. The reason is that it requires the most patience—patience by the one filling the role, as well as the community hosting the project. It’s the transitional phase that moves a community from an exciting new idea to a long-term commitment. Seeing that transition through is a rare talent.

Sakano joined Kamikatsu-cho’s zero-waste movement in 2015 thanks to an introduction by her university friend. She’d studied environmental policy in university and was on the hunt for a position that would instill lasting impact.

Lucky for Kamikatsu-cho, that made her the ideal candidate for the zero-waste project’s Water role, and as a result, the project moved beyond the idea stage to a usable framework for long-term sustainability and innovation in the community.

Wind for Spreading Ideas

Even as Sakano brought the spotlight to Kamikatsu-cho’s community, she started to take on a bigger role elsewhere. In 2012, she was chosen for Global Shapers, a community of young people nominated as action-takers by the World Economic Forum. In 2019, her sustainability contributions earned her a place as co-chair of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

And so, through her networks and new responsibilities as a representative for young innovation, Sakano took on the role of Wind.

GIP is, in fact, a Wind project, as it gives future innovators the basic tools they need to grow into changemakers. In line with this, Sakano and her colleagues implemented an educational program, the Green Innovator Academy (GIA), challenging 100 university students to come up with sustainable strategies for major Japanese companies such as JERA, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, INPEX, SMBC, IWATANI, and others to make change toward 2050.

Sakano says the key to Wind power is blowing across barriers: “I’ve always thought that there weren’t enough people bridging different stakeholders. But there should be more than that—collaboration should also be cross-generational and go beyond other borders, too.”

This thinking heavily influenced the construction of GIA. The students work with mentors from different companies and institutions to support their innovation processes and strategy making. That helps incorporate global, national, and local contexts during the program.

Soil for Giving Sustainable Jobs Meaning Long Term

Sakano’s career began with Water, then shifted to Wind. So where is her next role taking her? Back where she started in Kamikatsu-cho—only this time as Soil.

The seeds of Kamikatsu-cho’s zero-waste movement are sewn and watered. Now, to ensure long-term impact, it’s time to get the local community committed to sustainability. For this, Sakano has a few ideas. She designed a game to help teach kids to think beyond recycling and find ways to eliminate garbage altogether. Then, to address the remaining 20% of non-recycled waste in Kamikatsu-cho, Sakano started promoting a zero waste accreditation system for shops. This not only motivates the owners, but also raises the awareness of locals.

“Waste is everywhere in our daily lives,” says Sakano. “Each of us can do something, but lasting impact starts with changing our awareness and behavior.”

By laying down these initiatives, Sakano is providing the community of Kamikatsu-cho—and now other communities all over Japan—with the zero-waste roots it needs to carry on their efforts for generations to come.

Akira Sakano tours a group of children around a zero-waste recycling facility in Kamikatsu-cho
Akira Sakano tours a group of children around a zero-waste recycling facility in Kamikatsu-cho.

Sustainability-Driven Innovation through Wind, Water, and Soil

Sustainability can be a daunting concept for businesses and individuals alike. Everyone wants to impact the world for the better. But where do you start?

If you’re stuck asking yourself that question, try developing a career path framework using Wind, Water, and Soil. Find a cause you want to impact, and then visualize your place in its journey. Are you the Wind that will carry the seeds of young innovation? The Water that will help those innovation processes settle into place? Or the Soil that will ensure change continues to grow for generations to come?

Remember, whatever role you fill now isn’t forever. Sakano’s challenge to grow 1,000 innovators with GIP has just begun. As she and Sugawara prepare for their second year, they’re focusing on prepping those 100 university students for sustainability-driven innovation—not only in Japan, but across Asia.

As your own career path grows, keep looking for new ways to innovate within your community, nurture fresh ideas, and maintain positive impact for the future.

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