Journey of Innovation and Globalization in Tokyo

Ruslan Maksym

MBA Candidate '19

2018-03-23

During the season of cherry blossoms in full bloom in Japan, 4 students from the Business School, Renmin University of China were invited to attend Global Network Week (GNW) from the 12th to the 16th March at the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy (ICS) of Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. Global Network Week (GNW) is an initiative of Global Network for Advanced Management (Global Network), an alliance of 32 top business schools around the world. In 2018, the theme of Tokyo's program was centered around "Innovation x Globalization: Japan Style."

Hitotsubashi university was founded in 1875 and the first and only university in Japan specializing exclusively in social sciences. ICS was established in 2000 and is located in central Tokyo, at Hitotsubashi, the university’s original site. ICS is the first national university business school providing a 100% English full-time MBA program in Japan.

On morning of 12th March, 60 MBAers from 20 Global Network partner business schools gathered in the ICS building for the welcome ceremony. Professor Emi Osono and Satoko Suzuki introduced the schedule and divided all MBAers into eight groups. Then, they took us to do team building exercises to get to know with each other. After activities above, the GNW Tokyo program officially started. GNW Tokyo Program consists of 3 parts including foundation Sessions, company Sessions, and field visits. To help students see unique innovation & globalization challenges facing Japanese business and economy through exposure to a variety of corporate practices and market phenomena in Tokyo and Japan.

Professor Emi Osono introducing the program and team building exercises. 

FOUNDATION

We had 5 different Foundation Session that helped us to learn about Japanese history, business, economy, innovations and management.

During the first session we learned about Japan as National Innovation System. It was a quick and amazing introduction by Professor Yoshi to some of the major economic and business issues that characterize Japan and Tokyo today. As often described as the “land of old and new,” Japan – especially Tokyo – is the place where opposites coexist. We have learned that new technology and trends come and go, while history and tradition continue to be held in utmost respect. As Professor Yoshi Fujikawa said "To understand Japan, you need to know both where the country has come from and various challenges and opportunities it faces going forward”. During this session we had a great opportunity to learn how and why Tokyo has been the innovation engine for the Japanese business and economy, and discussed whether Tokyo can continue to be an innovation driver into the future.

Yoshi Fujikawa talking about Japan as National Innovation System

During the second session we were fortunate to have Takaaki "Tak" Umezawa as class guest. Umezawa-san helped us grasp the “Cool Japan” - a term that describes the growing international interest in Japan and the nation’s attempt to leverage it for business development and economic growth, especially in the fields of media content, fashion, cuisine, popular cultures and explore opportunities and challenges it would bring out to both Japanese companies and non-Japanese firms. As a founding member of NeXTOKYO Project, a consortium of academics, artists, architects, business executives, journalists, and policy makers for redeveloping Tokyo into the world most attractive city toward 2020 Tokyo Olympics Mr. Umezawa was able to share his views on the challenges Tokyo should overcome to achieve the goal by 2020.

Cool Japan by Takaaki "Tak" Umezawa

During the third session lectured by a great Professor Emi Osono we discussed why some industries become competitive in Japan while some don’t. We were exploring what makes a country or a region competitive in a particular industry. Some countries for example are competitive in particular industries, where not just one but several strong companies from the same industries are located. This is called a "cluster" - a geographic concentration of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, and associated institutions in a particular field that are present in a nation or region. Emi helped us to see the factors that are working to enhance competitiveness of a cluster and explain Japan's competitiveness so far.

Emi Osono - Competitiveness & Clusters

The fourth session gave as an unique opportunity to discover the underlying foundation of Japanese culture. Motoko Kimura and Mina Nishisaka gave us unforgettable presentation on Japanese culture and answered all the questions we had during Q&A session. This session provide us with a framework of key concepts in Japan including Zen and Bushido. By unraveling the roots of each concept in history, its essence and how they are interrelated, Motoko and Mina helped us to get a better understanding of the virtues behind people’s behaviors, including the Japanese way of getting business done.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

During the last session with the Dean of ICS we discussed how business organization utilize knowledge for gaining and sustaining its competitive advantage. Mr. Kaz Ichijo introduced us to the "knowledge-based view on organization," which has been developed originally at Hitotsubashi ICS and is now being studied widely around the world, with references to concrete cases of leading companies in Japan and beyond. We have learned that in 21st century “knowledge creation” is becoming increasingly important for success and sustainability of organizations, especially when it comes to innovation and globalization strategies.

COMPANY SESSIONS

During GNW, we were provided great opportunities to hear from business leaders that belong to Japanese leading companies and leading foreign companies operates in Japan. We had very attractive case studies like P&G Japan, MUJI, Lawson, LOHACO, Unilever Japan, SONY, Seven Dreamers, and PWC Japan. Leaders from these companies well explained us how innovation process was managed, what are opportunities and challenges involved in doing business in Japan, historical changes over time, in the field of fast moving consumer industry, e-commerce, innovation and start-up, consultancy industry.

 By face-to-face communication and asking questions to the leaders, we have learned the Japanese way of globalization, innovation, and sustainability. We also have a basic view how to run a business in Japan, and what will be the problems when doing business in Japan.

Communication with Top Managers from MUJI, Unilever, SONY and P&G

FIELD VISITS

During the past week, we have great lectures from professors of ICS and guest speakers from great world famous companies, more than that, we also gained experience of exploring Japanese culture. We were divided into small groups of several members and were assigned a task that to take a photo that contains both conventional and modern architectures. We went to Asakusa, Akihabara, Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinokubo, and Sugamo areas, during the tours at different places we observed both traditional and cutting-edge perspectives of Tokyo, and all the amazing experiences were recorded by splendid pictures.

Field visit at Asakusa Temple

One of unique experience we had was at Engakuji Temple, one of the prestigious head temples of Zen Buddhism in Kamakura. We experienced a Zen meditation session led by Buddhist Priest Ichido Uchida. It is unique experience to use our five senses to fully engage in Zazen and meditation, and Buddhist Priest Ichido gave us a lot of suggestions regarding that how to infuse Zen meditation into our daily life, to change and improve the lifestyle, also help human beings to sense and seek the true self. Following the Zen meditation session, we also visited Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, a historical shrine established in 1063, located at the center of Kamakura, which let us exposed the ancient Japanese culture.

Zen Meditation led by Buddhist Priest Ichido Uchida

Time past by, all participants enjoyed 5 days with many fond recollections, but there is no ending feast, this program was slowly coming to a close finally. Remember the past days, We all tried our best to involve in the topics and discussions and did obtain a lot of different knowledge about Japan.

 Above all, it was really a fantastic journey for all of us. I am so glad that we could have this wonderful chance to be here in Tokyo in GNW.

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