Hot, Stimulating Summer

Japan has entered the dog days of summer, and it has been scorching hot for successive days now, just like a subtropical climate. As well as the sweltering heat, in July my emotions have burned as well. And as we prepare to move into August, I can say that I have learned lessons as well.

First of all, I was excited by the statements made by Pioneer President Susumu Kotani. You can read the details in the top interview. What stirred me was that he was able to clearly confirm Pioneer痴 recovery.

As a person involved in the industry, I was greatly saddened by the decline of the distinguished Pioneer over the last few years. I think it was clearly the result of strategic errors, overconfidence, and ambiguity over where responsibility lies.

When Kotani became president, and indeed through our meetings before then, I sensed that he was a philosophical, optimistic, and farsighted person. I also knew that he was very open and upright, so I had great expectations of him. His abilities have been widely reported, and he talks about the essence of his reforms in the interview. As a result of his efforts, Pioneer has achieved the expected results with flying colors.

Kotani talks about how he was distressed that so many people had to leave the company and that Pioneer is still a long way from being its true self. But the structural reforms were completed in the fiscal year ending March 2010, and Pioneer is now tackling a growth strategy toward March 2013. Kotani expressed his determination to definitely achieve the targets. I believe that next spring I will be able to proclaim loudly in this column that Pioneer has fully recovered.

The second thing that aroused my passions in July was the fighting performance of the Japan team in the World Cup soccer tournament. Keisuke Honda emerged as a new superstar, and I thought the solid defense centered on Tulio, Nakazawa, and Nagatomo was really world-class. Japan unfortunately lost to Paraguay in a penalty shoot-out, but my feeling was that they deserved to win that game.

Why did I get so heated up? There were reports that the teachings of Shiro Tenge, formerly of Sony, played a role, and I really do think that may have been so. I also learned from Tenge during his Sony days, and I was always amazed by the grand scale of his ideas. More than anything else, Tenge is famous as the developer of the Aibo entertainment robot. I believe that the fighting spirit displayed by the Japan team led by coach Takeshi Okada stemmed from a shift from backward-looking to forward-looking thinking.

Specifically, Okada set a target of reaching the semifinals and showed a strong determination to achieve that goal. The players firmly understood that determination, absorbed it, practiced hard, and rose to the occasion in the games, thinking with their bodies and advancing to the knockout stage. This was a real embodiment of Tenge痴 thinking.

Seeing the brimming self-confidence of the players and coach, business managers will surely have sensed the importance of setting high targets and tackling them with a strong will.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naoto Kan made his remark about the consumption tax. In the past, prime ministers have suffered crushing defeats and been forced to step down as a result of statements about the consumption tax. Strategically speaking, the top priority at that time should have been winning the upcoming House of Councillors election. Then, after the election, Prime Minister Kan should have held a suprapartisan debate on the consumption tax and questioned the people with sincerity. Why on earth did he choose to ignore the lessons of predecessors who suffered defeats over the consumption tax issue?

I come from the remote countryside, and I know people there are always troubled by center-focused politics. Even though it is hard enough to earn just 100,000 yen, Kan talked about raising the consumption tax and increasing the tax burden. You don稚 need much knowledge to conclude that this made defeat inevitable. It was a typical strategic error that business managers must avoid at all costs.