Feng-shui Office: Set Your Energy Free!

Yoshito Hori, president of GLOBIS University, managing partner of GLOBIS Capital Partners, shares his views from an entrepreneur's perspective.

In many parts of Asia, it is unusual to construct an important new office building without first thinking about its feng-shui.

If the feng-shui is right—meaning that the building is located and oriented properly—it will bring good luck and cause the business to prosper.

Recently, a sort of “feng-shui lite” has begun to be exported to the West. Magazine articles offer advice on how to place your furniture, plants and water features to live more in harmony with nature.

Despite such quirky modern manifestations, feng-shui—which literally means “wind and water”—has its roots in thoroughly common-sense practices, as most ancient superstitions tend to do.

Stagnant air and water were the cause of many fatal diseases in old cities. Situating your home in a healthy location where water and wind flowed unimpeded could literally be the difference between life and death.

Feng-shui is all about eliminating blockages, because blockages create bad energy. Based on this, I like to define a good office space as “a place where light, air and people can all move freely.”

In the best Japanese tradition (“The Way of the Samurai,” “The Toyota Way,” etc.), I actually codified what all our company offices should look like in a document called “The Office Way.”

According to “The Office Way,” our offices throughout Japan must incorporate the following elements:

•Simple, intuitive layouts (for the free flow of people)
•Glass (for the free flow of light)
•Plants and natural wood fittings (for harmony with nature)
•A limited color palette (simple, traditional Japanese design)

Although based in feng-shui, my ideas also had more modern influences.

For example, a case study I read at Harvard Business School twenty-five years ago, had a powerful impact on me. It was the story of a young company that was growing very fast—until it expanded from one to two floors.

The simple physical change of being on two floors gave instant birth to a silo mentality. Instead of a “we’re all in it together” mindset, a “one floor versus the other” attitude took hold—and the company’s growth went into abrupt reverse.

Contrast this firm’s experience with that of financial data giant Bloomberg. At Bloomberg, no one, no matter how important, has a private office. Nor are there any partitions in the open-plan offices. There are even internal staircases to encourage staff to drop in on their colleagues on other floors (an idea that I adopted for my firm). Bloomberg is all about eliminating blockages.

Last year, I paid a visit to the Thomas Edison Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey. I detected feng-shui-like thinking behind the vast open-plan laboratories where Edison and his team created technologies like motion pictures and electric batteries. It seems that he too instinctively realized that a free flow of light, air and people promotes innovative thinking.

Ultimately, creativity is about people interacting freely in a single physical location. Physically being together is a meaningful thing. By sharing the same space, people share the same energy. Ideas transmitted directly by word of mouth have a massive impact. Face-to-face interaction is the best way to share and generate ideas, create excitement and boost motivation.

Ever since I set up my firm, I have seen the well-designed office as a place that can motivate, excite and inspire.

Think about it: after all, creating an effective “feng-shui office” could be the difference between life and death for your business!

(Photo: sculpies/shutterstock)


Mr. Yoshito Hori established GLOBIS Management School in 1992 and GLOBIS Capital Partners in 1996. In 2003, GLOBIS started its original MBA program which, in 2006, received accreditation from the Japanese Ministry of Education and gained “university” status. GLOBIS started a part-time MBA program in English in 2009 and a full-time MBA program in English in 2012.

A Harvard MBA graduate and former Sumitomo Corporation employee, Mr. Hori founded the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Japan Chapter in 1995 and became the first board member from Asia in charge of Asia Pacific region in 1996. He also served on the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s New Asian Leaders Executive Committee and Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership, as well as the Harvard Business School Alumni Board from 2005 to 2008. Currently, Mr. Hori is a board member of the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and serves as co-chair of WEF’s Global Growth Companies.

In 2008, he launched the G1 Summit – a Japanese version of the WEF’s annual Davos forum. This led to the foundation of G1 Summit Institute in 2013, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

Just days after a huge earthquake struck northeast Japan in March 2011, Mr. Hori launched Project KIBOW to support the rebuilding of the disaster-affected areas. The following year Project KIBOW was incorporated as the KIBOW Foundation, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

An avid enthusiast of the Japanese game Go since age 40, Mr. Hori has been Director of the Nihon Ki-in (Japan Go Association) since June 2013.

Since October 2013, Mr. Hori has hosted a weekly TV program in Japan called Nippon Mirai Kaigi (Japan Future Conference). He has authored several books including Visionary Leaders who Create and Innovate Societies, Six Dimensions of Life, and My Personal Mission Statement.

Mr. Hori received his BS in Engineering from Kyoto University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.

He is an avid swimmer and enjoys spending time with his family, especially his five sons.

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