Hakuhodo officially launched in May 2016 a new human resource development institution “Hakuhodo Sei-katsu-sha Academy.” At the HR Conference for Corporate Personnel Departments in Japan (May 19, 2016), Tatsushi Shimamoto, President of Hakuhodo Sei-katsu-sha Academy, briefed on the founding story and training program of the Academy in a lecture entitled “Shifting Focus of Human Resource Development from Skills to ‘Fundamental Knowledge’: Developing Talents Capable of Leveraging Whole Personality for Innovation.” Here are the highlights of the lecture.
Situational awareness and basic concept: Human-centered business creation
● Faltering innovation
First, I would like to talk about the background for launching our training institution. Let me start by raising an issue. We have been wondering if innovation is actually faltering now. According to the White Paper on Science and Technology, Japan is ranked second in terms of R&D, spending huge sums to create ground-breaking innovations. However, the ROI on R&D expenses in the manufacturing sector has been declining year after year, which means that investment in R&D now generates little profit in Japan. Products and services thus created do not meet the social situation or customer needs. Isn’t this strange? We are supposed to create products and services in an effort to improve society and customers’ lives. For businesses facing unprecedented changes, product development is focused on performance, competition and efficiency, thus drifting away from the intended objective of innovation: contributing to human development and producing social values.
● Accelerated competition in “means” to the detriment of “objective”
Everything has its own objective and means. But what is the intended objective of a business? It is to bring a new kind of prosperity and well-being to the world. All products, services and systems exist for that objective. Businesses and other organizations have leveraged resources and technologies as means of achieving that purpose. But nowadays, it is the tail wagging the dog, with the means taking precedence over the objective. There is insufficient discussion on how to deliver a new kind of well-being and a new kind of prosperity. We feel that the objective is being left behind as the means accelerates.
● Moving toward an era requiring human-centered business creation
There will be no profit if we cannot contribute to the creation of life. There will be no growth but for the capability to re-build business from scratch, starting with the question: What is fundamental well-being for humans? The basic concept of Hakuhodo Sei-katsu-sha Academy lies in building the capacity to create human-centered business by providing a place for human resource development to that end. I personally believe that if you look closer, true innovation and transformation are happening in daily life, driven by the desires of each individual. Let me cite a case example, where one father’s desire brought innovation to the game industry. This is Ingress, a game app developed by Google. Strangers form teams to engage in a game of conquest in real places. With 14 million downloads, Ingress captured the Grand Prize in the Entertainment category at Japan Media Arts Festival 2014. Recognized as a highly successful and innovative case of game development, its most significant result was that it made people walk a combined distance of 150 million kilometers. The developer, John Hanke, is Google’s Vice President and the founder of Niantic Lab. What motivated him to launch this game called Ingress into the market? He just wanted to create a game that would encourage his stay-at-home son to go out for a walk. So this game was not born from the mind of a businessperson, but from the desire of a father. We believe this kind of passion is the true driver for creating social values.
● Developing talents capable of leveraging whole personality for innovation
We are always told to “make innovation happen” in our daily work. I am also told by my colleagues and superiors to “make a change.” But when do we hit upon an idea for “change”? Humans have various roles to play. How about myself? I am now 56 years old. Of course, I live my life as an employee of a company, but I am also the father of a daughter. At the same time, I live in a condominium in Ota-ku, Tokyo and serve as a member of its management association in charge of public information, a position suited for a person working for an ad agency. I like alcohol, so I go out drinking with neighbors on weekends at a local liquor store which has a drinking area. My hobby is weekend cooking. I was strongly influenced by rock music in the 1970s and 1980s. I take care of my father who is aged 82. I use various goods and services every day as a consumer. I serve in many roles. When we are told to “make innovation happen,” where should we look for inspiration? We tend to think that innovation will come in the meeting room of the company or from the data in our PC, as we are working in a company and instructed by the company to create it. But is that true? As suggested by the title of my lecture “Talents Capable of Leveraging Whole Personality for Innovation,” we consider that our daily business is a natural extension of our daily life. For example, my daily life and my business get connected when I think about what kind of world I want to leave for my daughter while working. I sometimes think of today’s social issues when I read the many letters in the mailbox of the condominium’s management association. Even when I am drinking at the liquor store, I may get ideas on how to revitalize the local economy when I hear factory-owners in the neighborhood talk seriously about their business and succession planning. Conversations with care managers and workers who help me look after my old father remind me of the social issue of the elderly living alone. I am taking all those things on my shoulders when I work at the office. As a consumer, I am sometimes dissatisfied with the goods or services provided, or recognize my true desire from recommendations by store staff. Thus, all human relationships are linked with business. We have to leverage our whole personality as living human beings in order to think about innovation if we are to make it happen. And we want to develop such types of human resources. Our engine is every living person.
Foundation of learning: Sei-katsu-sha insight framework
● Sei-katsu-sha insight framework
Many of the “occupational abilities” and “skills” are gained in relation to a specific challenge or activity, and therefore cannot be a source of innovation. The focus of Sei-katsu-sha Academy is to change the culture of the organization. At Sei-katsu-sha Academy our stated objective is “creating a thinking culture,” and developed a learning framework for original thinking called the “sei-katsu-sha insight framework.” “Sei-katsu-sha insight” is the corporate philosophy of our parent Hakuhodo. In 1981, we publicly announced our intention to help clients’ marketing communication with sei-katsu-sha insight. Since then, we have been serving our client companies as their partner for 35 years, leveraging this “sei-katsu-sha insight.” What is the idea behind sei-katsu-sha insight? The most important thing is to “take a holistic view of human beings.” Companies have to know what their customers need. For example, someone from a canned-coffee manufacturer might say: “We only need to know about canned coffee and its users.” But is that true? Is it irrelevant to the marketing of canned coffee to think about the kind of stress that the users feel at work, or how they spend holidays with their friends? Of course, those things do matter, for the users drink canned coffee under such daily circumstances. There is so much information that people can generate on an ongoing basis. When you process and connect such various pieces of information, ranging from daily scenes to big data and life logs, you will begin to understand what the person really wants. From this understanding, we draw a future vision of life, showing the direction in which people wish to go, and possible lifestyle proposals to bring more prosperity to everyone. And we imagine what products and services would be suited to that vision. This is the basic idea behind sei-katsu-sha insight. Sei-katsu-sha Academy will provide training to build on this insight and ask our trainees to present their vision of life in the future at the end of the course. For this purpose, we will provide the trainees with various materials and resources to inspire ideation. They include data but your thinking should be facilitated by information from as many sources as possible, such as what you just saw while commuting by train this morning and your own memories from the past. Quantitative data, qualitative data, live human voices – all those things can inspire your ideas. The trainees will share, and combine materials thus collected. In some cases, you may be asked to select from several information sources the signals that indicate what the future may hold in store. In other cases, you will be asked to compare several events and datasets to identify the link between the events and specific desire, or the time spirit and sea changes that flow through multiple events. Based on the outcome, you will be asked to draw a vision of the future business and environment along with the kinds of goods and services that will be required under such conditions. In short, you will be asked to make a circuit by combining the materials in different ways. We call this circle “track of thinking.” Our training program will offer activities to go around this track. Through this circuit of inspiration, discovery, reading and launch, we will be focusing on the life model that will be necessary in the years ahead. If visualized, our training course literally goes round in circles. Face, link and relink various sets of materials – and you will see a vision of the future at the center. Internally, our training program is described as “whirl and pop:” you whirl round and round, and an idea for the future will pop up. What matters is your tenacity, or how many times you go around. That tenacity determines the distance that your idea will go after popping out. We therefore urge the trainees to rearrange the available materials as many times as they like, and to share their ideas with other trainees in conversations. And just when you think your vision is complete, please think again if you will be happy in your “future,” and remodel it as necessary. We would like to offer training classes that will nurture such “creative adhesion.” No deep and strong idea will flourish unless you think through with creative toughness.
Learning style: Internalization
● Internal, rather than borrowed strength
Throughout the training course, we attach importance to a specific learning style to develop this toughness. That is internalization, or letting the toughness seep through you and become the norm. In other words, you need to develop a predisposition and strength that allow you to ideate from inside, rather than meeting the immediate challenge with skills borrowed from somewhere. First of all, we stress physical activities – seeing with your own eyes, listening to live voices and writing in your own hand. Our teaching program includes “town watching,” where you walk around town to sample seeds for future businesses and signals of future life, and “town listening,” where you sample live voices at a café, for example, listening carefully to conversations of strangers. We do not allow Web searching in class. You have to depend on what is inside you, such as memory and knowledge obtained through experience, and not on external intelligence. We also place emphasis on “handwriting” culture, directing each trainee to describe his/her future in his/her own hand. The second pillar is diversity and culture mix, or face-offs to make the most of differences. We encourage the trainees to face off against each other, because doing so elevates everyone’s ideas. In our class, the participants are limited to one trainee per company in order to address the same topic in a cross-industry group. Huge chemistry or conflicts will emerge when participants from different backgrounds address the same topic of “well-being for the future.” We also have another keyword to describe our philosophy, which is mutual assistance. As the Buddhist monk Shinran once said, you can only make your dream come true with the help of others. Note that mutual assistance does not mean depending on others. Our teaching style emphasizes mutual assistance to ensure that all trainees will find their way to the shared goal through conflict and concurrence.
Goal of learning: Obtaining a grand concept
● Goal of learning
The goal of our training course is to develop a grand concept, or each trainee’s future vision called “Future Life Sheet.” The Sheet should specify the new kind of well-being and prosperity that will be relevant for the future. It is not necessary to describe your vision in stylish language, but it should present some sort of life model – e.g. “I would prefer a life in which we can grow something in each other.” Starting with this life model, each trainee will envision how things would change in that model, including clothing/food/housing, learning, working, playing, making, interaction, health and activities toward the end of his/her life. This Future Life Sheet will be the grand concept, whose relevance reaches far beyond the product in question. I think that every company, every organization and every individual talent may be likened to a big tree. Products and services are the leaves and flowers that decorate the era: different leaves and flowers will come out in a different era. But no leaf will come out from a tree with thin roots. What matters is the grand concept, or a vision of how our lives and lifestyles should be in the future. I believe that the grand concept is what provides roots to all products and services. It is this core knowledge of “life in the future” that generates a rich variety of individual solutions. We now have some 100 Future Life Sheets prepared by trainees from various companies who participated in our pilot course which started last year. Those Sheets reflect the hopes of individual human beings outside the framework of business. I believe that innovation finds its source in the core knowledge of every single person seeking to explore what he/she can initiate in his/her company. Training classes at Sei-katsu-sha Academy will destroy all participants, transform their perspectives and build new habits. One of the trainees said that his biases, rules and stereotyped ideas were broken into pieces, in a good sense. He had been thinking that business resources should be found in the company, factory or laboratory, but that was not the case. He realized that the resources could be found in his daily life. Although many tend to think that ideation and innovation are for a handful of gifted people, the trainees will realize that they do not need to be geniuses to get ideas. In short, anyone who leads an ordinary life can make innovation happen. Insight does not come from a bizarre place, but from somewhere very close to you.