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Fostering a Culture of Innovation – Forging Your Own Path – (Part 2)
CEO of Incubit, Naoki Kitamura
“Changing imagination into influence by using cutting edge technology and design”. With this mission statement as its backbone, Incubit, founded in 2014 by CEO Naoki Kitamura, supports IT Startups using various Web technologies and techniques like Deep Learning.They have since become the official partner to IBM Watson, and have helped develop Web and Mobile Apps as well as Chatbots and AI services.
In this interview, we asked Mr. Kitamura about why he decided to become an Entrepreneur and how he hopes to create an innovative society. His underlying principle to “live life according to what you love to do, that can also significantly impact society” comes from his experience of being a high school dropout and fighting through depression. We find out his secret to success.
Read Part 1 Here.
―― The unique relationship you have with your co-workers doesn’t follow the management hierarchy of a traditional company, but is more like a transparent “Holacracy”.
I believe that my co-workers should not have to follow what management determines as “important” or “valuable”, but instead I encourage them to abide by their own principles. I continued to tweak the organizational structure until I arrived at the current structure in which each employee is able to work in a way that allows them to do what they do best. The way I view relationships with others and growth is like this: “Inside⇔Outside” and “Individual⇔Structure”. The first quadrant is comprised of “Inside x Individual” which starts with an individuals “passion and values”, this then turns into “Inside x Structure” which means creating an organizational structure that allows these passions and values to flourish. With this structure, each individual’s values are respected, and instead of trying to micromanage these values through structure, they are encouraged through cooperation. The next quadrant, “Outside x Structure” involves figuring out how to transfer these values into philanthropy. This is what I think is the ideal structural framework.
―― It is rare to see the “individuals way” and the “structural way” to be prioritized when creating a management style.
It comes from personal experience in which I realized the importance of understanding yourself and being able to work in a way that suits your abilities. As an elementary and junior high school student, I struggled with grand ideas such as “what is the purpose of life” and “what is the purpose of going to school”. No one around me was able to give me a solid answer, and yet they continued to study relentlessly. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this didn’t make sense to me. Eventually I became determined to escape from values determined by my family and school. What I learned then was the importance of having the courage to escape. A book I read helped me realize this called “Where Is The Real Me” by Taizo Kato. Essentially this book makes us question what are the benchmarks of “success” (such as graduating from a famous university or working for a major company), who would we be, and what standard would we hold ourselves against if the world that we know was to be suddenly stripped of these arbitrary standards. Would you be able to live according to your own principles and values even if it went against the values of the society that surrounds you? The realization of how important it is to live for yourself is what has influenced my life the most.
―― It is difficult for children who have unique talents or passions to explore their passions to the fullest in Japan. To allow children to pave their own path, what mindset do you think adults need to have?
Although I didn’t have what is considered to be a traditional Japanese education, I believe it comes down to the fact that there are so few examples of people who have pursued their own path in life and succeeded. What I want both adults and children to know is that, the earlier you discover your own values, the better. Society, like technology, changes through time, and therefore it is expected that “values” will also change from generation to generation. The difference of values between parents and children is bigger than ever before. Therefore, it is difficult for adults to teach children principles, because their principles are different from their children’s generation.
But what adults can teach children is the importance of contemplating your own philosophy, values, and beliefs. For example, if you believe that education is important, have an open discussion with your child as to why you think education is so important. You must respect that your child is an individual human being, and may have a difference of opinion. By respecting your child’s opinions and thoughts, this will teach them that it’s okay to pursue their own path.
―― Being able to have an open discussion with your child is a great idea. What other qualities, do you think, are important for children to develop?
I believe there are two important qualities. The first is to develop the strength to create your own path according to how you want to live. The best way to do this is to observe yourself and discover in what moments of life you feel excitement. Give whatever makes you feel excited a try, and evaluate from there.
For example, when I first developed Incubit, I was giving anything I thought I might like a try, and evaluated whether or not I felt excited at what I was trying. Think of something you enjoy, then put it through the PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle). The key is to start from scratch, whether that be song writing or sewing, discover what ignites your excitement during the process, and through the process of elimination you can figure out what you are passionate about.
Let’s say you narrowed your passion down to something technology related, then you can try to develop, for example, an app that lets you review comic books. However, during this process you observe your motivation starting to decrease. Now you can look back and figure out why that happened. You’ll realize that within the technology field, you feel most passionate about creating a product or service that has long term impact rather than short term impact. The key is to constantly take action, and reflect on what you feel while doing that action. This “PDCA Reflect Cycle” will undoubtedly help guide you to a happier standard of living. Not many people try this process, but I believe it is imperative in discovering your own path in life. It is my hope that more and more students can learn this.
The second important quality is to strike a balance between the life you want to live and the demands of society. It doesn’t matter how much passion you have for something, if there is no demand for it in society, then launching a business based on your passion will be difficult. We all need income to sustain ourselves, and so while it is important to have your passion as the core principle, it is even more important that your passion is flexible enough to be twisted into something profitable. On the other hand, by focusing solely on what is profitable, you will end up putting your passion on the back burner. You need to be true to your passion, but also realistic of what businesses are in demand. I believe it is essential to teach the importance of this balance to students.
Part 3 Coming Soon!