I hear that Kansai International Airport will celebrate its 20th anniversary this month. Although I use the airport every time I go on an overseas business trip, the sophisticated form of the passenger terminal has never looked obsolete, making me a bit surprised to learn that such a long time has passed since the opening of the airport.
The period after the opening of Kansai International Airport coincides with the so-called “lost 20 years” after the collapse of the bubble economy in Japan. The major events during this period that I recall immediately include the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Disaster, the collapse of the IT bubble, the September 11 (9/11) attacks, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Although society must have undergone considerable change, partly due to widespread use of the Internet, I don’t feel that there were so many positive events during the period. There is no wonder why young people today say that they don’t know anything about the age of continuous economic growth in Japan.
The period from when I was born to when I began to work in society coincided with Japan’s post-war period of reconstruction and growth. Recover from the chaos, return to international society, catch up with developed countries and overtake them… Although people in Japan in those days were not as rich as they are now, their values were not very diverse, leading citizens to share a common goal implicitly. Compared with that situation, people in Japan today, who have become much richer than they used to be, have more diverse values, which perhaps makes it very difficult for the entire nation to share one common goal.
Also within companies, the progress of globalization is accelerating the diversity of staff members’ values. Whether such diversity serves as a cause for failure in governance or as an engine for innovation depends on whether the staff members share something on which they act, namely a corporate philosophy or business spirit. Many companies uphold a corporate philosophy, and aim to solve problems confronting society and play an important role in constructing a better society, although there might be a difference in how it is expressed. Such an aim is nothing special, but how deeply the aim makes sense to staff members determines whether the diversity within the company will serve as a strength.