As Japan starts to recover from the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, it is going to need young and visionary leaders more than ever in all areas -- from helping in the rebuilding effort to reshaping the economic and social structure of society for the future.
One of those dynamic leaders is Yoshito Hori, president and dean of GLOBIS University and managing partner of GLOBIS Capital Partners. Immediately after the quake, Hori contacted several of his like-minded colleagues and held a symposium (aired on Ustream) to decide how to respond swiftly.
The result is Project KIBOW, an initiative to bring about immediate assistance and promote change for the future. KIBOW is a coined word combining the Japanese word “kibo” which means “hope,” and the English word “rainbow.” Hori says the word KIBOW signifies a project that he hopes will be a bridge of hope between people around the world and Japan.
Joining Hori on Project KIBOW are such entrepreneurs as Hiroshi Mikitani (CEO of Rakuten, Inc), Kiyoshi Nishikawa (CEO of Netage, Inc), Takao Ozawa (director of NPO Civic Force), Daigo Sato (representative director of NPO Charity Platform), while many other leaders have lent their support.
Hori, who majored in engineering from Kyoto University and then earned his MBA from Harvard Business School, is no stranger to the issues involved in the current crisis facing Japan. He grew up in the Ibaraki town of Tokai (where a nuclear power plant is located), his grandfather was a nuclear scientist, his father is also a nuclear scientist and so is his older brother who works for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
Hori established GLOBIS Management School in 1992 and GLOBIS Capital Partners in 1996. In 2006, GLOBIS received accreditation from the Japanese Ministry of Education to issue the MBA degree (awarded university status). The university started a part-time MBA program in English in 2009 and will launch a full-time MBA program in English in 2012. Hori has also served on the World Economic Forum’s New Asian Leaders Executive Committee, and has authored several books including “Visionary Leaders who Create and Innovate Societies.”
Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Hori at the GLOBIS campus in Kojimachi to hear more about Project KIBOW and Japan’s future.
Where were you when the earthquake struck on March 11?
I was at a meeting at Gotanda. When the quake hit, we cancelled the meeting. I was able to get a taxi and went to check that my family and residence were alright. Then I came back here to see if everything was OK.
How soon after the quake did you think about what you could do to help?
On March 14, about 12 of us got together, some in business, politics, others in NPOs. We held a symposium, aired on Ustream, on what we could do. We came up with the KIBOW idea to support relief and reconstruction efforts. Since then, many other entrepreneurs and business leaders have given us their support.
What is the message you want to convey through Project KIBOW?
We will never be defeated. We will rebuild the towns, rebuild Japan. Japan currently faces fear and tremendous uncertainty, in addition to a long way to recovery. However, we are most certain that the country will not give up under any circumstances and we want to let people know that everyone throughout the world is watching and supporting the efforts of the people in Japan.
How are you going about this?
KIBOW has three goals. One is Hope. Right now, 20,000-30,000 people are missing or dead and more than 180,000 have been evacuated, and there are radiation fears and blackouts. People get scared and lose their spirit. It is important to give them hope because they are at a loss as to what to do. So we will set up an information hub to provide accurate information and messages of hope. We are combining the twitter @KIBOWJP, the blog http://blog.globis.co.jp/hori_english/, Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/kibow.jp) and other social media. I also sent out emails to 3,600 friends of mine who live outside Japan.
Our second goal, which we call Rainbow, is to make a bridge between Japan and the rest of the world while they are still paying attention to Japan. Through the above-mentioned information networks, we can advise those people abroad who want to help Japan, but don’t know what to do.
The third goal is Donations. There are many NPOs in Japan that need some assistance. For that, we are using the platform of GLOBIS – we call it the GLOBIS KIBOW Collaboration Project – for donations. Details of that in English can be found at http://imba.globis.ac.jp/topics/detail-3927.html.
How will the money be distributed?
We have decided to use the money for four different categories which will be posted on Facebook. Our policy is to donate to those initiatives that are driven by good leaders. The first category will go to NPOs with low fixed costs and good experience but lack money. The next 25% will go to the local communities. We’ll be looking for creative ideas on how to spend the money and endorse the efforts of the local communities, as long as there are young and energetic leaders aggregating those efforts. The third 25% will be for education because so many children have lost their parents and they cannot have a decent education. The 4th 25% will be for Civic Force (www.civic-force.org/about/index.html). It responds to large scale natural disasters in Japan, and cooperates closely with NGOs, the business community and government of Japan. It takes on the role of a platform where information, manpower, funds and resources are gathered.
What else is the university doing?
GLOBIS University has decided to call for donations from concerned people, including faculty, alumni, students and others in order to support the rescue and relief in the devastated areas. We will match the total amount of donations given, up to 20 million yen.
This is probably the first major natural disaster in which the online community will play a major role.
I think so. After the earthquake, newspapers were slow and TV covered only certain aspects, like the tsunami. But people wanted to know what was happening in terms of traffic, blackouts and so on. Twitter and Internet have played a major role in connecting people. Twitter users with a lot of followers have become media in their own way. We are constantly getting requests to disseminate information. I tweet both in Japanese and English, and got a big response. In terms of email, we received a lot of positive feedback from overseas, quite positive.
In general, what do you think about the dissemination of information since the disaster struck?
First and foremost, it is important to disseminate accurate information about what is happening, what the threat is, what can be done and how to do it in a clear manner, otherwise people will start panicking. I think the Japanese media have generally done a good job. I heard a foreign PR expert say transparency does not mean you give out all the information you know. I tend to agree if it causes a threat to public security. So far, people have stayed calm. There have been no riots and few crimes. On the other hand, some foreign media have tended to sensationalize their reporting because it’s what they do to get their viewers’ attention. That is not good.
Do you think this crisis will bring about a change in political and business leadership?
I think that leadership change will be inevitable. Look at the press conferences by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano versus Prime Minister Kan. Edano is more reliable and articulate and he takes responsibility for what he says. With Kan, you are not sure how much he even knows about the situation…and he tries to avoid questions.
If you look at the business community, we don’t hear anything from them. Company presidents need to be out there in a crisis, energizing the public. TEPCO is at the center of the post-quake crisis, and their top executives have to be visible at press conferences to show that they understand the public’s emotions. They have to tell us what’s happening, what is being done and what the future holds.
In our MBA course, we have a social responsibility course where we teach students what to say and how to ensure public reliability. We use the Johnson & Johnson Tylenol case as an example. I think that in the near future, these events will show who the capable leaders are and those who are not.
How do you think the March 11 disaster will affect the economy?
I’m not really sure of the effect of the rolling blackouts on the economy. It is certainly impacting productivity and quality reliability at manufacturing plants. Maybe electricity prices should be hiked so the money can go to a fiscal account for rebuilding the quake-stricken areas. In the long run, I am optimistic because the team spirit among Japanese is high. I think that Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya will have greater economic power and that Japan’s economy will no longer be Tokyo-centered. If we think positively, we can create new economic and social models, starting with the rebuilt local communities.
Another change that has to come is that we will move toward more renewable energy sources and it will come in a very creative way.
How has the disaster affected GLOBIS?
As you know, we offer an English and Japanese MBA program. This year, we had overseas students from Canada, Thailand and Malaysia entering our MBA program in April. Right now, most of them are already in Japan but some students have decided to postpone their studies at GLOBIS, so we are not sure about the impact on enrolment for next year’s programs. One message we are trying to communicate to the world is that Tokyo is fine and that people have already returned to their daily routines.
How about your Japanese MBA program?
We started our MBA program in 2006 with 78 people. In 2011, we have about 350 people which is good growth. I think that trend won’t change. In times of economic or other crises, the number of MBA applicants goes up. People worry about job security as they know that it will no longer be provided by their companies. You have to do it for yourself by showing your capabilities and improving your skills.
Do you still teach?
Yes, I like to teach. My course is called Entrepreneurial Leadership. It is compulsory. Everybody has to take this course. It is important for me to be with students to help them foster the qualities and mindset of visionary leaders before they graduate.
Why is it so difficult for visionary leaders to emerge in politics?
You know, many foreign people and media admire the Japanese people but are amazed to see at how incompetent Japanese political leaders are. It’s a complicated question and I believe it will take another generation. There is no doubt that more collaborative efforts are going to be needed between politics and the private sector. With that in mind, we will start a G1 global summit in October where business leaders in Japan will have the opportunity to get together and discuss the current difficulties Japan is facing. It will be 100% in English.
How come you never thought of going into politics?
One of my grandfathers was a politician but I never really thought about it. I’m not sure if I should.© Japan Today