asashoryu and the future of japan

Sumo grand champion Asashoryu's sudden retirement was a real

downer for me, as it reminded me of many things I don't

particularly like about Japan. As a foreign rikishi, he surely

had to go through a lot before achieving the success he did. I

can easily imagine his loneliness during those long days of

training, his frustrations at not easily understanding or

being understood by his colleagues and peers, his bewilderment

that certain things that he considered unimportant were seemingly 

blown out of proportion by everyone around him...


Of course, it would be an overstatement to say that Asashoryu

Was "driven out"of sumo by some shadowy cabal that can't stand

the idea that for many years the top ranks of sumo have been

dominated by non-Japanese wrestlers. His behavior has long been

controversial here, and as a matter of principle it is important

for any foreign guest in any country to play by the law of the

land – so in large part his stepping down was just the logical

result of his earlier actions.


But coming from the US, where our famous athletes REALLY know

how to get in trouble - from shooting themselves in the leg at a

nightclub and brandishing firearms in the clubhouse pre-game

locker room to jumping into the stands to fight fans on a semi-

regular basis - Asashoryu's transgressions seem tame at best. At

the end of the day, the expectations of society became too heavy

for him, so he stepped down just when his rivalry with Hakuho was

heating up and sumo was developing a compelling storyline that

might have helped revitalize the sport.


From my own perspective, this reminds me of cases I see in Japan

business too often. An established group is threatened with a 

looming crisis (as with the sumo world, this can often be

summarized as "shrinking domestic business"). They have some

emerging yet controversial potential strength at hand (an

exciting yet scandal-prone yokozuna, a technology proven in

the local market yet untested overseas, or the untapped

resources of young women that could be used to develop new-

look business models in their company). But leveraging this

new strength would require wholesale changes in their group or

corporate culture and leadership styles. Instead of making a

move, they dither and dather, trying to hold on to the status

quo and praying for the emergence of the next Takanohana /

Wakanohana Japanese-born sumo pair, a rebound in the yen-dollar

exchange rate, the next blockbuster drug, or whatever other

magic they might need. Of course, that doesn't come to pass,

and by then that potential strength is long gone. 


Think JAL's top management with blinders on over the last decade.

Think Japanese government and industry's need for innovative

entrepreneurship and the way they absolutely decimated any

possibility that risk-taking would improve by excoriating

Horiemon & Livedoor several years ago. Think any pharma company

that clearly recognizes that young female MR's are outstanding

performers but haven't made the real effort needed to give them

a career path and retain them past the age of 30 (less than 1%

of the sales managers I meet in that industry here are women). 


I really hope that Japan as a whole will find a way to avoid a

fast slide into an age of irrelevance. Many people just write

this type of problem off to the seniority system and expect that

things will do a 180 once the "dankai" generation filters out

of action through age attrition. But I think there is more to

it than that. As a whole, the culture needs to adapt to better

support outliers like Asashoryu, problematic as they might be.

All in all he did a really good job at fitting in. His Japanese

is excellent. His interviews were a bit edgy, but never

ridiculous. His dohyo entrances were done with dignity and

style, even as his pre-bout preparation was borderline manic.

More than anything, he performed, and people appreciated what

He had to offer. It is a shame that they couldn't find a way to

keep him where he belongs – in the dohyo.


jeffjapan at 17:16コメント(0)トラックバック(0)IdeasStrategy 


the 8:30 rule

I do a lot of teaching and facilitation in corporations and universities,

and through that get a chance to interact with lots of young business

people. Typically these are high-performers chosen by their companies to

participate in the courses my company offers, or MBA/MOT students at top-

level universities. So this is a highly-motivated talent pool to start with.


Despite their already busy work schedules, they sacrifice precious free time

with family, friends and hobbies in an effort to better themselves and learn

more about the world around them. This is fantastic, and I applaud their



But at the same time, there is more that most of these students could do to

leverage the opportunities they are getting. The "best of the best" that I

see in these groups, the true global professionals - people who make a real

difference in shaping their companies or organizations and the markets that

they touch - are those that always "take the next step" in whatever they

do. They don't just attend the courses they are offered. They make sure to

follow-up, understanding that application is key.


The most successful people I know are the ones who not only gather a lot of

meishi at the cocktail party - but those who send a thoughtful note and

even an extra question to those they have met the next morning. They not

only write down the name of the book the speaker mentioned - but quickly

buy it and start reading it in the train that night. And when they get a

business idea in the shower, they not only write it down on a long to-do

list - they immediately gather a couple of colleagues over lunch and explore

how to expand it into a project.


From these observations, I have developed what I call the "8:30 Rule". The

next time you meet someone interesting, or learn a new concept, or have an

idea - DO SOMETHING with it at 8:30 the next morning. Before everyone else

gets to the office. Before you get bogged down with email. It doesn't have

to be a big step, just a concrete step that you can follow up on later.

Order the book online. Write a quick summary of the idea and email it to a

colleague for input. Create a mind map about how it relates to your work,

and reserve 30 minutes in your next monthly team meeting agenda to

discuss its potential relevance. Believe me, if you don't do it then,

you will probably never get around to it later.


There is always a danger that people feel self-satisfied after attending a

seminar, and then lose all the potential value of it by forgetting to truly

follow-up and apply their learnings in their daily life. I do it myself

all the time. True Global Professionals don't fall into that trap. I

have been trying to apply my own "8:30 Rule" as a way to force myself

to improve in this way. I hope it can help you as well.

jeffjapan at 10:06コメント(0)トラックバック(0)LearningIdeas 


CSR in pharma





 まずは、ありがとうございました!特にファーマ業界におけるCorporate Social Responsibility(CSR)の活動について、考えたことはありませんでしたが、個人的な意見を書いてみます。




海外(私個人が一番しっているのがアメリカですが)ではファーマ企業の評判が非常に悪くて、どの世論調査をみてもタバコ産業と肩を並べるように悪く評価されています。理由は儲かりすぎ、DTCのやりすぎ(この間の出張で小児ADHDの啓蒙広告までみた)、 Free Lunchesをベースに考えたポロモーション活動などなどあります。最近医療制度に関する不満、それからMichael MooreのSickoのようなメディアも更に悪化させている。


従って、industryとしてはある「悪魔」のように見られていますが、だからその他の産業グループと違うCSR活動をしているかどうかと言われてみれば、大きな違いを感じません。Science-baseの純粋な寄付金、foundation活動などを徹底的にやっていますが、INTELやMicrosoftもscience educationの活動をやっていますし、エコ関係などはどのメーカーでも、どこでもやっているような活動だと思います。


日本の場合は、製薬会社のイメージはどちらかというとよりよいです。大昔から、薬局からスタートしたケースも多いですので「物づくり」の伝統的な、神話的な存在でもあります。他産業よりも派手に儲かっている訳でもありませんし、ブランドDTCができませんのでdisease makerに見えません。


違いがあるとすれば、米国やヨーロッパでは保険会社や病院経営企業providers & payersに対する薬価設定の問題が大きいなビジネスドライバーですので、ロビー活動を通して医療経済的なメッセージを浸透としている活動が多いではないかと思います。



jeffjapan at 22:40コメント(0)トラックバック(0)Pharma/HealthcareStrategy