A Spirit of Challenge and Readiness for an Age of New Normal
Apr. 19, 2021
As seen from the Kanji of the Year, “mitsu (closeness)”, with Japanese citizens having had to organize their lives and behavior to avoid “closeness”, 2020 was a year marked by the increasing impact of Covid-19 infection. As a result, our society became one of non-contact and non-face-to-face interaction, we saw “things moving” to compensate for “people not moving”, and as seen in the phrases remote XX and online XX, digital technology was used in every imaginable situation as a means for helping to connect people together. We truly entered an age (= new normal) in which DX (digital transformation) accelerated out of necessity and what used to be common sense changed dramatically. Here, I would like to consider how we as individuals and as management ought to make decisions and act amidst such conditions.
What is required of companies and employees as remote work becomes more prevalent
One theme is the work style reforms premised on “people not moving”. This means that through remote work, individuals were given “freedom” of time and location. By being allowed the discretion to work when and where they desired, individuals were given freedom to choose their work style, but at the same time, such freedom came with increased “responsibility”, and both independence and self-control came to be required of every individual. This naturally entailed strict self-management and security compliance, and also seriously tests a person’s results-oriented mentality and other aspects of individual capability. While it is true that many people are uneasy about the sudden change in environment we are seeing, every individual should proactively consider leveling-up their own “self” to prepare for an age in which individual diversity and social values are requirements.
Meanwhile, from the perspective of management, we will likely see a shift from management based on employee satisfaction (ES), which is based on assessment of the corporate environment, to the critical importance of engagement management, which is based on assessment of the communication and sharing of thoughts between an organization and its members. This is because when we are working remotely, it is important to maintain “closeness” not only in the connections among people, but also in the connections between people and the organization (company). Many of you may think that a spirit of love for one’s company is an old-fashioned concept, but in order to maintain this “closeness”, the relationship of trust between companies and their employees is more important than ever before, and it is important to step up efforts to share thoughts.
I have acted as a project manager in many scenarios, and my thinking is likely based on my experience that really taught me that in a truly difficult situation, a project will not succeed unless the leader and members are on the same page in terms of the direction and ideas for the project.
What kind of leadership is required in the VUCA age?
Another theme is that leadership is more important than ever before under these new conditions shrouded in “uncertainty”, in what is known as the VUCA age. I have read a book titled “The Ignorant Maestro: How Great Leaders Inspire Unpredictable Brilliance”. It is common for leaders to be compared to orchestra conductors; this book discusses what the author learned as a professional conductor who underwent leadership training, and discusses how past “knowledge”, “skill”, and “experience” create walls that inhibit new challenges, while “ignorance”, “gaps”, and “keynote listening” are elements that a leader uses to inspire members.
Upon reading this, I was shocked, as I had always thought that experiences of adversity and the knowledge and skills learned from them served as lessons for the future. The book describes maintaining a stance that one is ignorant, assuming that another person’s opinion differs from one’s own, and listening to the opinions of others with the premise of a relationship of trust. I still do not believe that past experience and knowledge are entirely useless, but in present-day society, where a paradigm shift is occurring that breaks away from the trajectory of the past, we should not place our hopes in someone who always has the right answer and tells us “if we do this, it can’t go wrong.” Rather, the leadership required in the coming age will be exhibited by a co-creator who, like a conductor who listens carefully to unique or distinctive sounds and draws them out to create harmony, accepts the ideas of diverse human resources and consolidates them towards a single direction. Further, it goes without saying that the courage to perpetually have the readiness to persevere to the end is also required.
Lastly, although we still do not know whether the Tokyo Olympics will be held in 2021, the last Tokyo Olympics (1964) was said to also be an Olympics that involved introducing new, cutting-edge technology—in addition to being accompanied by the opening of the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train and the spread of color television, that Olympics was the first instance of satellite broadcast and real-time record management using computers.
The upcoming Tokyo Olympics will likely also be recorded and remembered as an event in which the latest digital technology was utilized. Some may oppose the tendency towards commercialization, but I fervently hope that the Olympics will be held as a symbol of overcoming the adversity of Covid-19 and starting a new era, for the sake of the youth who will lead future generations. At the Nomura Research Institute (NRI), as a company serving to create a more abundant society in the future, we aim to continue promoting DX with a spirit of challenge and readiness for the future age of a new normal and wish for the arrival of a day in which “misfortune is transformed into blessing.”