Photo by Aiko Suzuki
世界で活躍するグローバル・リーダーを bimonthly (隔月ごと）にYGCでインタビューしていきます。全て英語でインタビューが記載されていますので、是非最後まで頑張って読んでいきましょう！
- Ever since 5th grade, when you participated in numerous international camps, you seem to have developed a strong interest in foreign cultures. During your years as a student, how did you study English?
I did not have a strong interest in foreign countries in my earlier childhood, and I was unable to imagine what the outside world might be like. I participated in an international camp for the first time when I was in 5th grade. That is when I truly realized the existence of other countries, each with its own culture, and that friendships can be cultivated across borders. During that time, I could not speak any English. I had learned English before but had not taken it seriously because I was not able to imagine myself utilizing it to connect with others. I began to take my English studies seriously after my participation in the international camp.
With respect to my English studies and education, it is no different from that of any other student. However, in my junior high school years, I read the English version of the Harry Potter series with the help of a good dictionary. I was so eager to read through the magical story that I could not wait for the release of the Japanese-translated version. This spontaneity actually boosted my English skill.
- Your experience participating in international camps and immersing yourself in the English language at an early age has enabled you to recognize the importance of ‘diversity.’ How has this experience been beneficial to your current occupation as the CEO of Kesennuma Knitting?
I cannot say for sure how that experience has been beneficial to my current occupation. However, traveling to numerous places in my youth and making friends with the locals encouraged my motivation to live in the Tohoku region and start a business in Kesennuma. I received many reactions from my Tokyo friends of telling me how brave I was to move to Kesennuma, as well as from the Kesennuma locals expressing how out-of-left-field it was for a non-local like myself to start a living here. For me, the stakes were not as high as, since childhood, I have always believed that I could make friends in any place where people live.
Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that every individual has their own ideas and that your ideas are not always superior, especially when you are working in a place that is not where you were born and raised. When collaborating with people of different backgrounds, it is essential to have interest in their culture and respect their opinions no matter how conflicting they may be to yours.
- During your years as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, you were concerned about becoming obsessed with the appraisal of employee performance. What kind of problems could arise from this mentality?
One crucial problem that could arise is that you might stop thinking by yourself and just follow the criteria given by your company. If your thought process focuses on gaining positive evaluation by others, you may overlook to judge what is right or wrong, contemplate what is important in life, consider how to live your life and develop your own philosophical values. It could hinder pursuing self-evaluation.
- What is the ‘identity’ of Kesennuma Knitting? Furthermore, in an organization where there is a diverse group of people, what do you think is the key factor in continuing to pursue that identity?
It is hard to describe the identity of Kesennuma Knitting in one word. I can tell you that because the company was established with a well-defined vision (http://www.knitting.co.jp/vision), Kesennuma Knitting will always maintain its unique identity so long as each cohort of our organization acts according to our principles and beliefs.
For instance, you can tell from our vision that we are an organization that values providing prosperity to both our customers and associates. Thus, any action that opposes this vision would not be in our interest. Our customers, our knitters and our staff members all share this common value. Kesennuma Knitting will execute actions advantageous to both the customers and the workers. On the contrary, we would not enforce things that would be a burden to either party. This perennial practice, I believe, is what constitutes the identity of Kesennuma Knitting.
- At McKinsey & Company, you were engaged in various organizational reformation projects within large retail enterprises, as a business consultant. Currently, as the CEO of Kesennuma Knitting, you are responsible for direct operations of the business. In managing businesses, what are the big differences between the roles of a consultant and a business owner?
There essentially is no such thing as a consultant managing other people’s businesses. Consultants usually give advice to the proprietor and seldom take part in any business management. They also provide information to support the proprietor’s decision-making. Proprietors on the other hand, undergo the actual decision-making process. This, I think is the fundamental difference between a consultant and a proprietor.
To elaborate more on the roles of business proprietors, they are heavily responsible for the well-being of their employees, their families, and at times, their communities. This often becomes solitary and there are times when the consultant becomes a ‘counselor’ to the proprietor. However, only a handful of consultants could be primary ‘counselors’ to a leader in partaking in decision-making process.
- Gathering from your career experience you seem to have worked with many people from various backgrounds. What do you value the most when engaging with other people?
It all comes to down to the fact that we are all human beings. I do not distinguish my behavior according to one’s nationality or profession.
- You first matriculated to Tokyo University to study the mandatory liberal arts, and then majored in Economics. What have you gained from your liberal arts education? Moreover, were there advantages of liberal arts studies when majoring in Economics?
I felt that the place that could fulfill my vast curiosity was a university with a solid liberal arts education, which happened to be Tokyo University. During my days studying at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, I enrolled in various stimulating courses. Some of the courses that made a strong impression on me were on the study of the linguistic validity of bird vocalization, the comparison of chimpanzees and humans in an ethological and evolutionary-biological approach, the history of the Islamic faith, and pure mathematics. To this day, I feel I made the right choice in pursuing liberal arts education and by attaining a broader spectrum of knowledge, I was able to do some soul-searching. This led me to desire to learn about economics and hence undertook a major in the Faculty of Economics.
I believe acquiring knowledge that is outside one’s expertise, even if at a rudimentary level, would enrich one’s life.
- What was the most important thing you acquired during your time at Tokyo University?
I have made lots of friends during my time at Tokyo University. Thanks to Tokyo University’s broad range of faculties, I now have friends in various fields – which is always fun and encouraging to see them thrive in their respective realm of expertise. I treasure this friendship especially after graduation.
In terms of knowledge, the virtue of academic modesty is perhaps something that I have learned. I recognized that in the academic field, each statement made is the result of an accumulation of profound speculations. In any field, the discourses that are commonly shared by many are the outcomes of countless cogitation. Furthermore, we are unearthing ‘truths’ through various theories as we speak. The world of academia is like a vast ocean: you will feel that you are a mere speck of existence and at the same time gain a sense of comfort that there is something out there in the world that exists in such magnitude. I cherish this intuition deeply.
- How is what you learned at Tokyo University facilitating your current profession?
It is difficult to answer this question in a unified way. But I do believe that what you learn from your experience does affect you at a subconscious level, gaining insights implicitly at times.
- Who do you respect as a global leader?
I admire His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the 4th King of Bhutan (reigned from 1972 to 2006). He is most likely the only ruler in human history to take leadership in democratizing his own country.
- A message to future potential ‘global leaders’:
I think that no one becomes a global leader as a result of aiming to become one. If you are needed by the people even beyond borders to become a global leader, then you will instinctively become a global leader. In other words, others make you the leader rather than you depicting yourself to become a leader. Keep your spirits up high and cultivate yourself to become someone who can create values to the world.
Last but not least, be open and fair to others.