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!

William Saito
Special Advisor at Cabinet Office (Govt. of Japan)
Named by Nikkei as one of the “100 Most Influential People for Japan,” Saito began software programming at an early age and started his own company in high school. By the time he was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 1998 (by Ernst & Young, NASDAQ and USA Today), he was recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on encryption, biometric authentication and cyber security.

After selling his business to Microsoft, he moved to Tokyo in 2005 and founded InTecur, a venture capital firm and consultancy that identifies innovative technologies, develops global talent and helps entrepreneurs become successful. In 2013, Saito was appointed a Special Advisor to the Cabinet Office for the Government of Japan.

Similarly, in 2012 he served as a council member on national strategy for the Cabinet-level National Policy Unit, and prior to that, was named as the Chief Technology Officer for the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). He is a Foundation Board Member at the World Economic Forum (WEF), and has been named by the WEF as both a Young Global Leader and Global Agenda Council member.

Saito also advises several national governments around the globe. In Japan, he has also served as an advisor to METI, MIC, MEXT, MLIT, AIST, IPA and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), among others.

He teaches at multiple universities, serves on several corporate boards, appears as a commentator on national TV and is the author of numerous publications in addition to writing a weekly column for a prominent Japanese business newspaper. His best-selling management book, The Team: Solving the Biggest Problem in Japan, was published by Nikkei BP in 2012, his follow-on book, Is Your Thinking up to Global Standards?, was published by Daiwa Shobo in late 2013 and his autobiography, An Unprogrammed Life: Adventures of an Incurable Entrepreneur, was published in 2011 by John Wiley & Sons.

Posted by whsaito

  1. 日本には、チームが成立していないという指摘は、本当にその通りだと思います。日本社会では、チームというのは、まるで「出る杭」のように考えられていると思います。表面的な平等という思想が、広く浸透しきってしまった結果でしょう。せっかく「ザ・チーム」という著作を出してもらったのですが、チームという概念が、日本人には理解不能なのかもしれません。


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