Promoting Change

I've had some opportunities to advise a wide range of both public and private groups, including various levels of the Japanese Government. No matter what kind of organization I talk to, I try to provide new ideas and perspectives that I believe will help to improve our world. I hope my viewpoints will lead people who are in positions of power to effect meaningful change. In these assorted posts you can see some of the recurring themes that I feel are essential to building stronger, healthier, more vital societies everywhere.

Changing the rules to unleash innovation in development

I am honored that my blog received a guest post from The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

By Jon Lomøy, Director of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD)

Innovation isn’t something that springs to mind when speaking of statistical systems. But right now, the OECD is looking to do just that: innovate the way it measures and monitors external development finance in order to boost both its volume and effectiveness.

The official development assistance (ODA) measure developed by the OECD, which has been used for over 50 years to monitor development finance, defines how funds must be delivered in order to be recorded as ODA. These volumes, in turn, are used to measure the effort providers of development assistance make and to score them against their commitments.

Reporting rules can, therefore, make a big difference to how development programmes are designed and to the amounts of money they mobilise. There is a real temptation for providers to design programmes to maximise recorded development flows, letting this take precedence over the focus on what will produce best results. For example, we know that some development finance institutions may not lend support to private investors backing development-related projects simply because the cost of doing so would not be counted as ODA.

Updating the way development finance is reported can, therefore, spur innovation. As with any accounting system, it is essential that clear and robust rules are in place. Yet problems arise if the rules are restrictive to point of reducing flows – and the effectiveness of our development efforts.

This is important particularly for the economies that, without ODA, would be starved of external sources of finance. These are typically the least developed countries, which are often conflict affected and face the biggest development challenges. Encouraging flows to these countries can not only help to fill this gap, but can also be done in such a way as to maximise other resources available to them. While ODA will remain important, developing countries need private financing for infrastructure and to boost economic growth. Official development assistance can help to mobilise private finance using guarantees and other risk mitigation instruments, helping to tap the trillions of dollars managed by major private firms and sovereign wealth funds.

OECD donors are providing around USD 130 billion a year in development assistance today. The scale of the development challenges ahead, however, will require trillions of dollars over many decades. The United Nations is leading international efforts to develop a set of sustainable development goals that will guide global efforts when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) come to term in 2015. The scope of this agenda will be much wider than that of the MDGs, encompassing not only the eradication of extreme poverty, but also broader environmental, economic and social sustainability challenges.

Innovation in the way development is financed will be essential to fulfil this ambitious agenda. The new rules must be written in a way that not only recognises the use of innovative instruments, but actively encourages them. This will involve changing attitudes and practices within the official bodies that set and deliver development policy.

Finally, while the money that flows to developing countries makes a big difference, in the end it is their effort to put this money to work – and to increasingly raise their own resources, for instance through taxation and trade – that will make the real and sustainable difference. Here again, using ODA “smartly” to support their efforts can create the sea change needed to make development work for everyone.

To see more about this work, visit the OECD’s External Finance for Development webpage. The Development Co-operation Report 2014, coming out in October, will also focus on how best to mobilise financing for development. The new DAC Prize for Taking Development Innovation to Scale recognises and promotes the scaling-up of innovations that address important development gaps, celebrating achievements in the belief that success is contagious.

April 7th, 2014 05:02 PM
Author whsaito
Category Uncategorized
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Uneventul trip to “Race against time” in 10 minutes

Finally back home in Tokyo – and picking up the pieces. What was supposed to be an uneventful (and quick) trip to the US ended up suddenly turning into a race against time. I arrived in the US (San Francisco) on Thursday for a quick meeting and to return on Saturday on a 7:30pm flight (JL001) back to Tokyo. Since I had most of Saturday open, I thought I’d do a quick trip to Napa and buy some wines. However, before that, I decided to have lunch (1:15pm) at In-and-Out Burger (who wouldn’t). So I quickly parked the car, went inside, enjoyed my Double-Double and returned to the parking lot and my car.

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When I arrived (1:30pm), I realized my rear passenger side window was broken. Initially, I wasn’t too worried assuming that the car next to me dinged my car and hit the window. Since “it’s a rental” and I had full coverage, I wasn’t too concerned. However, about a minute later, I realized that is where I kept my PC bag (yes, stupid me). I thought I was thinking a little by not putting it in the front passenger seat, but I guess it didn’t matter. Now yes, it was not my first time to experience theft like this – I travel so much that statistically, it is inevitable to have problems abroad. I’ve been a victim (twice) of pickpockets (all in Italy) but was always amazed (not pissed or angry per se) that I did not notice them at all. Last year, I had my brand new watch stolen because the wrist band wasn’t set correctly and I put it in my bag, which a bellman promptly took out of the bag while checked (just felt sad because I never really got to wear the watch). This time however, I got a bit (but seriously, only a little) angry because this bag which they took contained my laptop (old so didn’t care that much), my 3rd generation iPad (again, was going to upgrade soon), my Galaxy S4 cell phone (somewhat pissed because it has my eMoney and Yodobashi points plus I just finally removed all my bloatware without rooting!), my wallet (yes, cancelling a bunch of credit cards is a pain and losing cash is not fun), etc… However, what took this into a new level is that the bag also contained my Japanese passport to return to Japan (in a few hours!)

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This entry is not for the purposes of feeling sorry for me. I just want to share my experiences so that anyone else who is in a similar situation can navigate and get out of such an unfortunate situation. I got really lucky to get this done as smoothly as it did – even if you don’t find yourself in a similar situation, being prepared is always a good idea. For me, this is “Unfortunate Situation v3.0” so next time (I don’t wish for it, but just in case), I hope to be even better prepared.

Anyway, the first thing I did was called 911. I felt bad because it wasn’t a “real” emergency. They answered quickly and gave me the number to the local police station. Unfortunately, that number was disconnected. Next, I used Siri to find the closes police station. Unfortunately, the 1st entry was also a disconnected number, but the second number worked. After reaching the police, I gave them my basic information and what happened. Incredibly, after only 10 minutes (1:45pm), two police officers came and helped assess the situation. They also spent about 45 minutes (in the rain no less) reviewing CCTV footage and canvasing the area. Unfortunately, nothing (but I wasn’t expecting miracles) – they mentioned that this area is often targeted by criminals during lunch hour, thus just because its crowded and highly traffic, that is no longer a deterrent to criminals (especially when we live in an age where no one reports anything anymore). They also mentioned that they take these bags, take what they want and dump it on the northbound lane of highway 101. Initially, I also tried to use the “Find my iPhone” feature, but stupid me turned off my iPad because it would have been considered roaming for me.

Next, I called Japan Airlines and was put on hold for 30 minutes (need to do something about that) and once I got on the line, was only told that 1) they couldn’t do anything (I knew that) and I should 2) call the Japanese consulate (they gave me the right number) in San Francisco but that it was impossible to get anything done before the 7:30pm flight – especially since the Consulate is closed on the weekend and there is no one to do anything until Monday.

Nevertheless, I still called the Consulate of Japan in San Francisco. Yes, the 1st recording you hear is that they are closed on the weekend and to come back on Monday. However, selecting the emergency option, I got a switchboard in Southern California to answer. They immediately told me that I have to come back on Monday to get a temporary passport issued. I told them that was unacceptable, explained my situation and to at least relay my message to the local staff. In the meantime, they were kind enough to tell me what things I have to prepare in order to apply for a temporary passport. This was:

  • Police report – Thank god I already started the process, but I knew I needed it for insurance purposes too.
  • 4.5cm x 3.5cm photo (which most photo places in the US don’t have so I took two sets of pictures offset to be larger and smaller than the US standard so that the Consulate won’t have any excuses on pictures (had that happen to me before)
  • Your (old, now just stolen) passport number – This is important, thank goodness I had this in my Blackberry.
  • Something to identify you – I didn’t have anything but usually this is a copy of your old passport, a copy of your insurance card. Luckily, in my case, they were okay with my California Driver’s license.
  • $30 fee

Eventually, the local Consul staff gave me a call (now 3:30pm) and I explained my situation again (plus that I HAD to be back in Japan by Monday). In this particular case, the person on duty (however, it was obvious he was calling from home) was VERY understanding and helpful and said he’ll see if he can get the office open for me and get back to me.

In the meantime, I realized I needed to get a full police report and all I had was a card with a case number on it. So when I called the police department, they said its too soon (it hadn’t been typed yet and needed approval) and I need to come back on Monday (what is with weekends?). Again, I explained my situation and the officer agreed to see what he can do. In the meantime, I went across the street from the police department to get my passport pictures taken.  Spending a little extra time tweaking the dimensions of the photo and receiving the photo’s uncut (very important since the US doesn’t have exact cutting specs – better leaving the cutting to the consular office).

By 4:15pm, the officer completed his very detailed report (4 pages!) of the incident and got his Sargent to immediately approve the report (which apparently usually doesn’t happen) and even waved the $12 fee! Talk about professionalism and courteous service. This was the highlight of my trip.

So, even without knowing the status of the Consulate, I now head towards their office in San Francisco. While driving up, I receive a call and am told that they were able to get a few people to help my situation out. It was actually hard to hear because a broken window is very noisy on the freeway, but I assumed that’s what they said. After arriving at 4:33pm, two consular employees were also arriving at the same time and they rushed me to the office. After filling a small mountain of paperwork in my bad Japanese penmanship, providing the passport photos, paid my $30 and provided the police report, they produced my temporary passport. (Funny, one of the employees mentioned how amazed he was at how calm I was… Apparently, that is usually not the case.) By 5:17pm, I was out of their office and heading to the airport. Now getting ready to explain the broken window to the car rental agency (again, having the police report helped in filing the accident report) all the while calling all my credit card companies to cancel my cards.

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Luckily, I made my flight with about 10 minutes to spare. However, it was very weird to board a plane completely empty handed except for a police report and your temporary passport.

Moral of the story:

  1. If you have something that valuable, lock it in the trunk. I admit, I became too complacent with security and didn’t assume this kind of scenario. Literally, someone targeting the back of a car in a very busy parking lot, breaking the window (which doesn’t set off the car alarm) and grabbing you bag.
  2. Luckily, I had two wallets. My Japanese wallet (which was stolen with the bag) which has my Japanese credit cards, drivers license (uggghhh), health insurance hard (bigger ugghh), money, etc… My other wallet was my “US” wallet that had dollars and credit cards to use in the US.
  3. I lost my Japanese phone with the bag, but I had my iPhone on me. Thank god I also kept it fully charged because after all this, the battery died right as I boarded the plane. The modern smart phone is truly the Swiss Army knife of today.
  4. Unless you are in a tremendous rush, file a police report. This becomes important when you file everything from insurance claims to when you find out that certain credit card purchases which are subsequently stolen can be refunded.
  5. Most importantly, I think people genuinely want to help. Its also important not to panic, get hysterical and start blaming other people. If you calmly explain the situation and also understand their perspective and “negotiate” a solution, I realized anything is possible. This is a far cry from the initial Japan Airlines person saying it will be “impossible to leave today”.
  6. Miscellaneous: Thank goodness I had all my credit card numbers and their contact info (due to prior incitements). Made calling them to cancel the card easier. Should have noted the serial number for my PC and iPad but I don’t expect to recover them so no big deal.

Things I need to do because of this incident (probably the most pain in the ass part of all this – will update if I think of anything else):

  1. Pick-up car from the airport. My bag also had my car keys so I need to find the spare at home and get back to the airport later today
  2. Get new phone (and do all the requisite setup that we all do with new phones. Damn…)
  3. Double check that all my credit cards have been accounted for
  4. Go to the DMV and get a new drivers license
  5. Since my ATM card was also taken, I personally need to the bank to cancel and reissue. Obviously, this can only happen AFTER I get my new drivers license.
  6. Apply for a new Japanese passport – ASAP since I’m travelling again next week.
  7. Get a new health insurance card
  8. File an insurance claim. I religiously apply for the AIU overseas insurance because one broken leg or hospitalization would pay for its ~8,000 yen cost per trip.
  9. Cancel my iPad account (how do I do that???)
  10. Unlink Dropbox, iTunes and Kindle – My PC is totally secure with EFS and TPM, but just in case…
  11. Buy a new bag, wallet and business card holder

In the end, it is amazing how just 10 minutes will turn your life upside down. However, I realize I’m totally exaggerating as I realize how lucky I was at the same time. Of course, not having this happen to you is always best. But in the real world, things like this happen. In a different scenario, I could have been approached gunpoint or, if I finished my burger a few minutes earlier, I may have accidentally confronted them and done something stupid as well. All in all, this experience was really a wakeup moment for me to remind me that perhaps I was getting a little too lax. Nonetheless, it was also an interesting learning moment for me. Perhaps the thieves who stole my bag, made a bunch of gas station and supermarket purchases (all in a place called Union City which is 25 mile east of where the crime took place) with the card in the 1st few minutes will read this and comment….

[Update 1: The most difficult part of this journey was when I got home and didn’t have my house key (actually card). I rang the doorbell but my wife didn’t answer the door so I was stuck outside for about 45 minutes finding a way to get in….]

September 23rd, 2013 10:16 AM
Author whsaito
Category Uncategorized
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Microsoft Digital Youth Awards

I recently participated in something called the Microsoft Digital Youth Award 2013

It was interesting in that it was part promotion of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 Operating System running on the Surface Tablet and also part getting people with diverse backgrounds to think of interesting applications for the new format. I had contributed to some of the development of the award itself and apparently it had over 1,100 applicants.

By the time we did the 1st round of judging, it was whittled down to 22 applicants. In the final round of judging, it was down to 12 finalists.

Here are the judges for the event:

Here are the 2013 winners: Congratulations!

Some news articles that have come out on the event itself:

March 6th, 2013 09:41 PM

Initial proposal to national strategy commission (Part 3 of 3)

This is the third and final part of the proposal I sent to the national strategy commission of the government of Japan (The start of the proposal can be found here).

Developing the Process and Environment that Addresses the Larger Picture

  1. A society that can “do more with less” must be created. Thus, innovation through the development of an entrepreneurial mindset is the only solution.
  2. Diversity, in all its forms, must be encouraged at every level.
  3. Creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial activities all impart some level of risk. Therefore a better concept and understanding of risk must be developed in Japan.
  4. Successful and innovative companies from around the world, and from Japan immediately after WWII, all share the quality of strong teams. To help mitigate risk and to execute innovation effectively, team work becomes increasingly important.
Innovation through an entrepreneurial mindset
Jean-Baptiste Say, a French economist in the 1800s simply defines entrepreneurship “as a shift of economic resources out of lower and into higher productivity and greater yield.” Since Japan’s population is already decreasing, it must utilize entrepreneurial values to maximize their productivity and efficiency through innovation.
It is important to understand here that “entrepreneurship” does not imply starting a “venture”. Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking – a mindset – which is useful to solve a myriad of problems. It is a way to increase value and efficiency, as well as being able to differentiate “wants” and “needs” within a global market.

In the long run, by promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, this mindset will improve government, large businesses, and even create some new ventures. Most importantly, it will create new, taxable, high margin, and yen resilient industries which will reduce the deficit, create positive trade, and create a multitude of new jobs.

Diversity does not simply mean a wider variety of races and ages, or more women in the workforce. These are, of course, very important elements, but diversity also means increased cross-fertilization between differing disciplines; it means drawing on a wider range of resources and allowing them to work together to solve a problem. Without diversity, innovation through entrepreneurship, improved risk management and teamwork will not take place.
Risk and Failure
Japan perceives “risk” as an additional burden or tax. However, if it is understood and implemented correctly, risk improves numerous processes.
Risk is a relatively complex topic that comes in several different, relative forms. These include measuring risk, risk taking, risk mitigating, risk preparation, risk response, and risk management. For larger corporations and businesses, how one mitigates and prepares for risk is important with regards to corporate governance. Similarly, during natural disasters or cyber-attacks, being able to respond to risk and risk management becomes very valuable.

It is also incorrect to assume that “failure” is the antithesis to “success,” for the antithesis to “success” is really “inaction.” Failure is one of the most insightful and important learning experiences. Almost all successful entrepreneurs around the world have failed at least once prior to their success. Past failures enable individuals to become wiser, as they understand their limits and gain the necessary experience for success.

Innovation through an entrepreneurial mindset and successful risk management are strongly dependent on the premise of good teamwork.
It is often said that the Japanese are efficient and good at teamwork. However, I believe this assumption to be incorrect. The Japanese, in fact, excel at group activities, but not teamwork. The fundamental difference between the two is the sense of ownership. Given the same task, the team with the right incentive, ownership, responsibility, and authority will accomplish more than a group of people following the guidance of one leader. Team members have a mutual and vested interest in supporting each other’s strengths and weaknesses, assuming equal responsibility, and sharing both risk and burdens. The reverse is true of groups – especially Japanese groups – where people only look out for themselves in an age based hierarchy, and simply “do their job,” or what is minimally necessary to get the job done.

In conclusion, incentives and financial reallocation will not solve the current demographic and financial dilemma. Innovation through entrepreneurship is the only solution available, since it will revitalize old and generate new, taxable industries that are global and yen resilient. Since determining which industries to support or which company to back is inherently dangerous and usually incorrect, it is more important to create a process in which these ideas can be effectively executed and flourish.

Your comments are always welcome and could potentially be included in the next version of the proposal!

June 13th, 2012 07:46 PM
Author whsaito
Category Uncategorized
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Initial proposal to national strategy commission (Part 2 of 3)

This is a continuation from Part 1 of the proposal I sent to the national strategy commission of the government of Japan.

The Symptomatic Issues

Japan’s problems cannot be solved separately from one another. The causes and consequent problems must be approached in their entirety as closely interlinked issues that have been developing prior to 3.11.

With a fertility rate at just 1.35 per person, 40% of the population will be over 65 years old by 2060 and the total population reduced by 30% to 86.75 million people. The difficulties that stem from these demographic issues will only continue to increase for following generations under the present circumstances. As a result, Japan must devise methods that will enable its population to be more efficient with fewer resources. Japan must be willing to venture into new sectors that are knowledge based and that will build on the tools that Japan has available as a first world country. Currently, however, the burdens simply continue to grow.

While foreign investment returns have managed to offset the trade deficit and the current account still supports a surplus, the latter narrowed to a record low by 43.9% to 9.629 trillion yen in 2011. The Japanese deficit has now reached a record 958 trillion yen. This amounts to 7.6 million yen for every man, woman and child, compared to the U.S. 3.8 million yen per capita. In the U.S., this large number fuels heated debates and disruption, but in Japan the issue has barely been raised and the populace seems to be accepting it quite complacently. With projections of the deficit increasing by another 13%over the next year to 1,085 trillion yen – the equivalent to the GDP of Switzerland – the country will soon not be able to maintain the deficit at “local” rates and will have to seek foreign investors at significantly higher global rates.

The Japanese government also announced its first annual merchandise trade deficit, since 1980, of 2.49 trillion yen this year. Exports have decreased by 2.7% and imports have increased by 12%, particularly of oil and liquefied natural gas, due to the nuclear disaster and the subsequent energy shortage. While this was partially caused by the Great East Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear accident, the floods in Thailand, and Euro crisis, the long term trend has already been showing evident signs of decreasing exports due to the lack of innovation, expansion, and product development.

Nothing is being done to change this. Japan is increasingly becoming a low margin “parts” supplier in juxtaposition to China and Korea. Many also in fact prefer to discourage businesses from moving or expanding overseas in their efforts to prevent the “hollowing out” of corporate Japan. However, when both the supply and demand side of an industry is overseas, it is logical for the more mature industries to locate closer to their suppliers and customers. “Hollowing out” would also cease to be an issue if new industries were created to fill the vacuum. For this to occur, globally relevant innovation, that is not purely domestic and incremental, is paramount.

Many do recognize the importance of innovation. However, the methods to initiate it within Japan are poor. The government here always favors the distribution of subsidies, which in fact foster moral hazards and additional obstacles to the form of innovation that needs to be accomplished. Due to the presence of too many subsidies, growth beyond research is stifled and actual product development never takes place.

Furthermore, while a strong yen may have negative effects on exports, it is also a powerful opportunity that Japan fails to utilize. This is very discouraging, considering the fact that Japanese corporations ought to be utilizing the yen’s purchasing power in global markets. Instead, they continue to behave very timidly and have amassed a cash hoard of approximately 200 trillion yen. While foreign acquisitions have increased, the reality is that in 2011 only 6.3 trillion yen was spent on acquiring foreign businesses. Additionally, due to the lack of real integration, profits and dividend income from these overseas sources that are purchased are relatively low, especially compared to those of the US and UK. The profit margin for US acquisitions averaged 8.9%, 7.5% for the U.K, and a mere 4.6% in Japan.

The lack of corporate spending and integration overseas is a clear example of the Japanese aversion to risk, which is also emulated within Japanese governmental policy. For example, the majority of Japanese government deficit spending is funded by the issuance of Japanese government bonds (JGBs). This is the favored method over raising taxes, since it is generally cheaper, easier to implement, and politically safer. JGBs, in turn, are purchased by Japanese corporations who prefer risk free investments over other forms of value creation. A stable market for government debt issuance is created, and this internal rate of borrowing creates a “safe haven” compared to other currencies and continues to keep the yen artificially high.

The final part (3 of 3) is here. Your comments are always welcome.

May 17th, 2012 05:50 PM
Author whsaito
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The Bellwether Series 2012: Japan

I was asked by the Economist Group as a guest delegate to an Economist Conference held at the Hotel Okura in Tokyo on May 16, 2012. I always enjoy the Economist magazine but their conferences (which I participate in from time-to-time) are put together very well.

Anyway, I thought I ‘d blog about some points I found interesting during the conference. Obviously, to those who know me, I talk about many of these topics on a continual basis.

  • Interesting answer to when JGB holdings becomes a problem (“clear and present danger”) is when the Japanese economy actually recovers. Interesting/good point since the capital requirements of a growing economy would increase interest rates. (Ken Takamiya, Nomura Securities)
  • ‘X-day’ would come in about 5 years. While it won’t be as severe as Greece, it will come. But the bigger problem is political deadlock in not being able to do anything. (Toshihiro Ihori, Tokyo University)
  • The ratio of national civil servants = 90:1 in France (highest), 30:1 in Japan = low. Interesting point. (Dan Slater, Economist)
  • Not a single hand raised in terms of the audience feeling that ‘X-day’ would occur in the next few years.
  • As a growth strategy, Japan should lead to create a platform to increase economic benefit within Asia. Government should help banks and industry to expand into the growing Asian market. We also need to change the ‘mindset’ in regards to entrepreneurship and how failure is interpreted. In a recent visit to the US, Furukawa heard that people tend to get follow-on investments if they failed a few times because of the experience they gained and that they have a higher probability of succeeding the next time. [sounds familiar -ws] (Motohisa Furukawa, GoJ)

(To be updated)

May 16th, 2012 02:53 PM
Author whsaito
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Initial proposal to national strategy commission (Part 1 of 3)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was named to be part of the national strategy commission for the Prime Minister of Japan. Since then, I have received numerous comments via the “crowd sourcing” SNS method I proposed. The comments, both positive and negative, on what Japan needs and what should be done continue to this day. Through this process and after discussions and working with the other commission members, I made the following proposal (translated from Japanese but otherwise unedited) to the commission as part of the initial feedback process.

Japan’s most pressing issue is its aging and shrinking population. Coupled with a negative trade balance, growing deficit, strong yen, and the poor performance of Japanese companies – both domestically and overseas – Japan may soon lose its position as the third largest economy in the world. These interconnected issues must be addressed immediately, and fundamental systemic faults within the government, corporations, industry, and education must be changed. Innovation, diversity, real risk management, and teamwork must be fostered at all these levels. By doing so, my belief is that Japan will be able to facilitate its transition into a vibrant knowledge-based economy by 2050.

Systemic Faults and the Root of the Problem
The government has of course undertaken efforts to address some of these issues. Nevertheless, none of these strategies have been very successful at improving Japan in the past two decades. While some strategies were supposedly implemented, the majority of them failed to understand the true “essence”of the problem and procured zero results, or made matters even worse.

Thus, we ought to focus now on “going back to basics.” We must work to re-create a resilient system that addresses to think in absolutes, but to develop the flexibility of thinking in shades of gray and making room for compromises. It is about taking measured, but decisive risks; it is about being able to respond to and handle the unexpected. Japan is extremely poor at this as it remains constricted by its adherence towards absolutes and bureaucratic guidelines.

Before strategies that target specific industries and sectors are developed, an environment that will support the competent risk takers, effective problem solvers, and reliable leaders needs to be established to successfully address the following symptomatic issues.

Next part (2 of 3) is here. Your comments are always welcome.

May 15th, 2012 02:42 PM
Author whsaito
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The One Year Anniversary of 3/11

As many of you have commented, I have not been blogging very much this past year. Obviously, as the world knows, Japan has suffered tremendously in the last year due to the Great East Japan Earthquake. The triple disaster has changed everyone’s lives forever.

In this last year, I have personally gone through many changes. Thankfully and luckily, most have been good. However, as fate would have it, I have also immersed myself into the very heart of Japanese government and am finally understanding what is important and what is not, and try to apply all my experiences and talents to really try to improve this place we call Japan. As I walk to “work” every morning and see buses full of children, full of hope and dreams, getting ready for their tour of the National Diet. This daily scene reinforces why I am trying so hard to fix this place – for them, our future.

For those who passed away or are still suffering from this tragedy, I would like to offer my prayer and deepest condolences.

March 11th, 2012 02:08 PM
Author whsaito
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Solving a country’s problem through SNS "Crowd Sourcing"

Last week, I was named to the national strategy commission by Prime Minister Noda of Japan. The commission was empaneled to focus on existing problems in Japan and to find practical solutions by the year 2050. My area of focus is on economic prosperity. I assume they are expecting my background in entrepreneurship, innovation and global perspective to be incorporated.

Therefore, I wanted to be entrepreneurial in framing the problem, innovative in receiving ideas and solutions, and global in implementing them. To do this, I am using my vast social network to “crowd source” from everyone about some problem issues they perceive as well as practical ideas/solutions for them.

Looking forward to hearing from you all!

February 6th, 2012 10:01 PM
Author whsaito
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Getting ready to tape 3-hour NHK special (broadcast 1/1/12) on disparities of Japanese (

December 10th, 2011 12:53 PM
Author whsaito
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