I boarded the bullet train from Nagoya and headed for Nara via Kyoto. I had delivered a speech the night before at the GLOBIS Nagoya Campus, and that's why I got on at Nagoya. Expo 2005 Aichi Japan is currently being held in Nagoya, and because of that, it seemed the economy is booming and the place was full of energy. There were as many as 300 Italians in my hotel, all attending the expo.
I was on my way to Nara with Mr. Kaneyama, a first-year GDBA student, GLOBIS' own MBA program, who had also come to Nagoya on the preceding day. On the bullet train, we met Mr. Kazuhiko Toyama , the COO of the Industrial Revitalization Corporation of Japan (IRCJ). Mr. Toyama was also going to the ASKA Conference and had kindly come down to Nara for this purpose on a day trip from Tokyo. In fact, all the guest speakers had come on their own without receiving any payment. I am most indebted to them.
We arrived at Kyoto, and on the way to Kintetsu Kyoto Station we bumped into even more conference participants, such as former GLOBIS faculty member Tatsuya Kato, who is currently vice-president of CYBIRD, and Ms. Misa Matsuzaki, the president of AGASTA. I was so excited to see all these friends coming together. Traveling on the Kintetsu Line to Nara Station felt almost like a school excursion. Mr. Toyama was sitting next to me, behind me was President Yoshiharu Naito of Pokka Corporation, and on the other side of me were President Shin-Ichiro Okumoto of Okumoto Flour Milling, and President Minako Kanbara of News2U. By then, about 40 conference participants were all walking together for about 10 minutes; it was great to be among so many familiar faces. We turned right to continue through Nara Park, where there are deer. We stopped halfway through and petted the heads of the deer. Kids were playing with deer in the park. After walking a little farther, we reached the venue, Asuka Sou Hotel. An executive committee made up of GLOBIS students who had volunteered was manning the reception table. The conference was to be held on the second floor, where a lectern had been set up beside a gilded folding screen. Right in front was a screen, upon which the ASKA Conference logo was projected.
Gradually the room began filling up. President Yoshitaka Taguchi of Seino Transportation, Mr. Akihiko Kawashima, the former president of VeriSign Japan, and other participants arrived. I was completely thrilled. The place was full and you could sense the enthusiasm. The expectations and excitement peaked just before the session commenced at 14:30. Mr. Kenzo Takahashi, chair of the executive committee, got up on stage and formally declared the opening of the session. Then my name was announced, and I started my opening speech.
"Welcome to the ASKA Conference, everyone. I am very pleased to see all of you here today. I am deeply moved when I think that all this has come together just two months after the idea first came up in the bath at Mount Koya. The ASKA Conference revolves around GLOBIS' educational principles to deliver a place (Assembly) for constructing a human network (Synergy), developing knowledge (Knowledge), and cultivating ambition (Ambition). Please take full advantage of this event to make new friends, gain new knowledge and raise your ambitions even higher by sharing your dreams.
"Just like the Davos forum, I want you to remove your neckties and enjoy a friendly, casual atmosphere. This ASKA Conference is starting out small, but it is my hope that it will grow into a major event. This year marks the first ASKA Conference; I would like to continue meeting all of you five, ten and twenty years from now." A huge wave of applause reflected the level of excitement.
(Reference column: From Davos Forum to Aska Conference) (Japanese)
The first ASKA Conference consisted of the following agenda;
Day 1: Saturday 23 April
14:30-15:00 Opening Ceremony
15:00-16:30 Part 1: Creation Section, "Pain and Growth in Venture Creation
Mr. Tatsuya Kato, next President of CYBIRD, Ms. Misa Matsuzaki, President of AGASTA
16:30-18:00 Part 2: Innovation Section, "Innovation Model for Japan"
Mr. Kazuhiko Toyama, Industrial Revitalization Corporation of Japan (IRCJ) COO / Mr. Yoshitaka Taguchi, Seino Transportation President / Mr. Yoshiharu Naito, Pokka Corporation President / and others
18:00-18:15 Presentation of Alumni Award
Day 2: Sunday 24 April
9:00-10:30 Part 3: (1) Career Section, "Career Model for Becoming a Management Professional"
Mr. Akihiko Kawashima, former president, VeriSign Japan / Ms. Etsuko Okajima, President, Globis Management Bank / and others,
Part 3: (2) Government-People Competition Section, "On Market Research"
Mr. Sadahiro Sugita, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Trade Finance and Economic Cooperation Division, Director
11:00-12:30 Part 4: (1) Environment section, "The Environment – A Challenge for Survival or the Source of Profit? Learning from the Environmental Strategy of Hoshino Resort"
Mr. Yoshiharu Hoshino, President, Hoshino Resort, / and others
Part 4: (2) Japan Section, "Japan, Where the Country is Headed"
Mr. Koutaro Tamura, member of the House of Councillors / Ms. Shihoko Urushi, Vice Dean, Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin (Women's School)
13:00-15:00 Farewell Lunch
First the initial part of program, the creation section, started. The emphasis of this conference is on dialogue, so we started off with an interactive discussion between the panel and audience. Some participants who volunteered as ASKA Reporters will be posting details of the discussion on the Alumni Blog, so please use this as a reference. The discussion provided a frank, honest exchange of opinions, beyond any comparison with panel discussions held in Tokyo. I was surprised at the depth in the exchange of ideas that went on.
To conclude the discussion, the program leader, a GLOBIS student, wrapped things up by saying, "Please take a pen and jot down what you intend start doing tomorrow based on this discussion." After a minute or two, the program leader shared his own ideas. "What I learned is that, first, believe you can do it. Second, actually do it. And third, as Mr. Toyama put it, get through a period of being poor." This generated a roar of laughter from the audience, and with that the section on creation came to a close.
After a thirty-minute break, the second program started. Before introducing the panelists, the program director began with a question:
"For an organization to reform it must become single-minded. What stands in the way of this happening?" Various comments were made. A lack of a sense of urgency, individual egos, lack of a shared sense of ownership, the experience of success, the "baggage" of past obligations and relationships, important decisions in the past, lack of leadership and commitment on the part of top management in the past, bad assets, bad loans, and so forth.
The panelists were then introduced and began to share actual examples from their own companies. The words of Mr. Toyama, COO of the Industrial Revitalization Corporation of Japan, President Naito of Pokka, President Taguchi of Seino Transportation and President Okumoto of Okumoto Flour Milling were simply overflowing with knowledge about management and reform.
There was a lot to take away from all this, and by the end my notebook was just packed with what I had learned. Part two had finished, and I was sad that 90 minutes of intense, focused learning time had come to an end. This had really been a time of concentrated learning.
I stepped onto the stage again and started the Alumni Award presentation.
April 23, 2005
At ASKA Sou Hotel: