It is a long, long road ahead

There is a well-known tale about a management critic who had a go at business himself and ended up driving his company into bankruptcy. One would think that if management critics simply practiced what they preached every day, they would be successful. So why do they fail?

According to one person, management critics probably know too much about lots of things, so their employees and even their clients look like fools to them. Well, they must surely at least understand that their business will never get off the ground if they consider their clients to be fools. I’m sure they don’t look down on their clients. The problem, I think, is that they are unable to inspire others to act.

In other words, although they understand a lot about management theory, they do not know much about human beings. To put it the other way around, even if you know next to nothing about things like management theory, you can be successful in business if you have an understanding of human beings. Of course, someone who has mastered both management studies and human studies would be invincible, but the reality is that God does not grant two gifts to one person.

Previously I wrote in this column about “respect the divine and love people.” The universe and nature come first, and human beings exist in their deep loving embrace. Human beings live in plurality. If there are three human beings, a community is formed. The mutual pandering between two people becomes more difficult when there are three, so rules are set and selfishness restrained. When there is more than a twosome, human relations become more complex as well. This complexity is softened by a large domain of trust and stiffens in times of distrust.

They say God is a given, but I would suggest it is human beings that are a given. It is the existence of human beings that gives birth to everything. Recognition of this point is extremely important.

Of course, the above-mentioned management critic also had an understanding of this fact as theory, but that is not enough. It has to be second nature. There is a famous story about Ishida Mitsunari (1560–1600), who in his youth was an attendant to the famous warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, serving the thirsty Hideyoshi first with some lukewarm tea and then with some hot tea. I don’t think that Mitsunari mulled the situation in his head and foresaw that someone with a dry throat was going to gulp down his first drink. Rather, he acted from second nature as soon as he saw that the person before him was thirsty. You can’t take swift and appropriate action if you spend a long time pondering about everything.

Do you see the customers in your business area only as people who spend their money at your store? Or do you think that your store only survives thanks to these customers? In the long term, it is the latter view that leads to overwhelming success.

I think it can be positively asserted that businesses will not be successful unless the owners have a good knowledge of human beings and love people. There is a saying that “logic sometimes leads to distrust, and conversely ignorance speaks the truth.” Perhaps this explains the collapse of that management critic’s business.

Looking at our industry, I feel that people with a good knowledge of human beings have become more active over the last few years. People who understand human beings are extremely attractive individuals themselves too.

As for me, I am at a stage where the ninth station up the mountain has just come faintly into view. It is a long, long road ahead.