A part of Japanese daily life, “jyuku” is a supplementary educational facility that allows individuals to attain a higher level of skill and knowledge. I am one of several lecturers of a management “jyuku,” established by the initiative of the CEO of a major corporation. This “jyuku” was designed as an internal training program for middle management personnel identified by their various business areas as future candidates for senior management positions.
These middle management professionals are hard working, and have established themselves as specialists in their respective fields. However, the CEO believed that to in order to be successful as senior executives in corporate management, one needs to look beyond the boundaries of his specific area of business. As a senior executive, one needs not only to see and recognize key issues across the entire company, but also need to be sensitive to the complexities of our ever changing world.
Of course, in order for future executives to be successful, they must focus on the issues, execute feasible solutions, and be accounted for by measurable results. But everything in the real world does not fit this kind of logical, quantifiable models. “How-To” skilled based training programs are not sufficient because our complex world cannot be navigated by following some preset course of actions.
To be effective in our increasingly diverse world, the executive must also digest a wide range of information about non-tangible, yet often profound issues. Because there can be multiple set of solutions based on different sets of circumstance or values, this is less about exact scientific techniques, but rather more about multi-disciplinary “liberal arts.” It is about visiting the past, in order to build the future.
“Liberal arts” education for middle management professionals is effective only if they are taken away from their daily routines. This will give them time and opportunity to be exposed to issues that they do not regularly think about in the workplace.
For my session, I use “Rongo and Soroban” (Analects of Confucius and the Abacus) by Eiichi Shibusawa as a text to stimulate discussion about moral capitalism in the context of the current business environment. In sum, it is not simply about “doing good” or “making money,” but rather about sustainability.
After one of these sessions, with a beer in his hands and a smile on his face, one of the participants said, “I’m so glad I encountered…Rongo.”
In his mid-forties, and currently a group head of construction and real estate development, his area of business has been under very difficult times over the last year. Without the company nominating him to participate in this management “jyuku,” he probably would have thought there was no way that he has the time to think about the meaning of the words of wisdom from the past.