Table Speech

Enjoy Aging in the Age of Centenarians

December 9, 2020

Mr. Kazuyoshi Ishiguro
Executive Advisor, IGUAZU Corporation

 Today, I wish to share my five-year experience working for Shogai Gen’eki Co., Ltd. that promotes a lifelong commitment to work. It goes without saying that we must take extra care to stay well and “enjoy aging” under the current COVID-19 crisis.

 The Institute of Gerontology (IOG) at the University of Tokyo conducts a certificate examination once a year specialized in the themes on an aging society. Gerontology draws on the expertise of many disciplines including politics, economics, sociology, technology and community development. The examination covers detailed questions such as differentiating between physiological aging and pathological aging. I managed to be certified as an expert on an aging society.

 Professor Akiyama of IOG has conducted an extensive research on the correlation between active aging and functional independence by tracking over 20 years some 6,000 samples randomly selected. Research results on “Trajectories of Independent Living” showed that for males, 20 % suffered early decline (death or severe impairment) before the age of 70 while 10% stayed resilient after reaching the age of 85. The remaining 70% were susceptible to gradual decline after the age of 70. For females, there were 2 trajectories with 10% suffering early decline while independence starting to decline for 90% of women aged 70 and older. We can draw a number of lessons from this research, such as preventing metabolic syndrome that could cause early death as well as prolonging the period of independent living and extending healthy life expectancy through the prevention of physical frailty and cognitive decline.

 We formed the Future Society Creation Consortium with 60 corporate members and organized 20 seminars and workshops as well as various programs focusing on the prevention of social frailty by encouraging social connections to enhance physical activities and improve mental functions. We have published brochures and DVDs on gerontology and developed training programs for corporate members. We also launched the “Enjoy Aging Award” to recognize and honor exceptional role models who stay socially active throughout their lives.

 Such activities taught me that each one of us should take a proactive approach to address challenges associated with population aging. As we enter the age of centenarians, one in every three people will be 65 or older and we can no longer afford to rely solely on our Government nor innovative measures. We should improve health literacy, extend our healthy life expectancy and take an active part in supporting others rather than being supported by others. I believe Rotary activities can lead to prevent social frailty and enable us to “enjoy aging” as we will be blessed with opportunities to interact with people of different ages, backgrounds and nationalities.

Going Beyond Unconscious Bias to Seek and Seed Innovation

December 9, 2020

Mr. Shota Nakaya
President & CEO,
Watashino Okyoushitsu & Co., Ltd.

 The global economy is undergoing dramatic changes as multiple factors are intricately intertwined. We can secure business growth by embracing complexity and taking into account various factors ranging from politics, economics, market climate, intensifying interindustry competition to shifting consumer needs. There is a common understanding across different industries that ceaseless innovation is the key to survival in an ever-changing economic environment.

 An innovation model provides a detailed framework to identify, advance and implement ideas to create new markets and value networks. Among multiple models, disruptive innovation is the best-known which refers to radical innovation that has a particular dynamic influence on the industry structure where new market entrants can disrupt and outperform the established players and eventually attract wider consumer segments. Professor Clayton Christensen introduced the disruptive innovation theory in his thesis The Innovator’s Dilemma, in which he referred to sustaining innovation as opposed to disruptive innovation. Sustaining innovation seeks to add value to existing products and differentiate products and services against one’s competitors. Sustaining innovation is the model most large and well-established companies are familiar with and was actually the driving force that made our devastated economy rise quickly from the ashes of WWII. Professor Christensen pointed out that disruptive innovation occurs less frequently, but when it does, small startups can overtake the entire market share of large successful companies who had failed to invest in disruptive innovation.

 Japanese manufacturers have long excelled in incremental sustaining innovations and continued to dominate within their industries. Now how can Japanese companies embrace the spirit of disruptive innovation that will be a viable strategy for economic growth? My research project at the Graduate School of System Design and Management at Keio University proved that we must try to break down unconscious bias, avoid drawing conclusions based on prejudice and develop an innovative approach to “think outside the box.” We can achieve this by balancing intuition and logic in our business strategy. Japanese workers, from managers to production workers, tend to base their thinking on analytical reasoning that has proved effective to improve efficiency, product quality and functionalities. Yet such detail-oriented element-analysis thinking is not suited for disruptive innovation which is often initiated by big-picture thinkers. On the other end of the spectrum, illogical thinking is based on intuition and subjective experience that encompasses creative thinking, design thinking and artistic thinking which are becoming so popular around the world in solving problems in a creative and innovative way. As we try to seek and seed disruptive innovation, we must go beyond unconscious bias and try to strike a fine balance between logical and illogical thinking.