Nakayama: Now, I'd like to ask Dr. Ochiai three questions. Which theme shall we start with, Dr. Ochiai?
Ochiai: Let's start with Theme 1. This is difficult if there are no key people who can make appropriate decisions on both sides that are collaborating. The speed of decision-making in normal operations is inevitably slow not just in companies but also in schools and local governments. Therefore, it is very important for both sides to have personnel who can make decisions on their own in order to move ahead with projects.
Nakayama: "Both sides" is the point, right?
Ochiai: Yes. If only one side tries to carry out a project speedily, and the other side is behind, the efforts will be meaningless.
Nakayama: Your laboratory collaborates with many companies. How many projects have you collaborated on?
Ochiai: I haven't counted, but I think it is about 40.
Nakayama: What percentage of the projects has gone well?
Ochiai: Almost all of them have gone well.
Nakayama: Almost all of them? Are you really doing so well?
Nakayama: Is that because you manage everything well in all of your projects?
Ochiai: No, I think it is because I do not collaborate with any party that does not have a key person.
Nakayama: I see. What are the necessary characteristics of a key person?
Ochiai: There are a few characteristics. First, the person must have influence in the company or know the company's system well. In addition, the person must have a similar specialty so that he or she can communicate in a common language. The person must be able to share visions with us and have a flexible brain to listen to others' opinions―oh, and not be too young.
Nakayama: Around what age is best?
Ochiai: From the late 30s to mid 40s.
Nakayama: That is much older than I expected.
Ochiai: In Japanese companies, employees in other layers cannot move things into action at all. Young employees may be very capable and energetic, but there are no examples of success. Meanwhile, employees in their late 40s and older have positions that are too high, causing others to shrink. Therefore, the right key people for collaboration projects are employees in this layer because they can make decisions and other members feel free and flexible when working with them.
Nakayama: I see. So, let's go on to Theme 2. I'd like to go into some detail. In an era in which effective use of data increases competitiveness, I want Japan to be the country that uses data more freely and effectively than all other countries. What do you think we should do?
Ochiai: It is not just about data use. The Japanese government has a completely divergent, compartmentalized bureaucracy; therefore, they will have difficulty in the future as well. I serve as a member of a Cabinet Office project, but the bureaucracy still wants to design the same ecosystems as in the past.
Nakayama: The same ecosystems as in the past?
Ochiai: They want to do it in the same way as they did in the past. This is natural in terms of being their habit, but as I said at the start of my presentation, we must promote policies that are completely different than those of the past. That is why I think the government needs to change significantly, too.
Nakayama: I see. Let's finish with Theme 3. What do you think about the work style innovation boom?
Ochiai: Do you mean the one about shortening working hours?
Nakayama: No, I do not think that is what it is about, but people somehow seem to take it that way and focus on reducing the number of working hours... I feel something is wrong.
Ochiai: Isn't it said, "The younger you are, the harder you should work"? I think that is wrong. Half work and half play are okay for young people.
Innovative ideas do not come only when one is working; rather, new business ideas can arrive while playing. Though diversity is said to be important for organizations, it is also important for individuals.
Therefore, it is better to have various experiences and spend time in various ways. In a sense, it is good to secure more time through work style innovation. However, people do not know how to use the extra time generated by reducing the number of working hours. That is the problem.
Nakayama: I agree. People have not considered substantial issues, such as what they should do to create new value after changing their work styles and improving efficiency. Herein also lies the key to corporate revitalization, does it not?
During the session between Dr. Ochiai and Nakayama, Tamura Kai of Fujitsu Design made a graphic recording to visually record the discussion content in real time. After the presentation, the audience reviewed the presentation while viewing the graphic recording. "I hope this graphic recording helps you to review the content and deepen your understanding immediately after the presentation to make it more memorable," said Tamura. After the presentation, many visitors took photos of the graphic recording, commenting that it was enlightening. This session helped raise awareness about the future of Japan and companies.
(Interviewed, compiled, and edited by Tsuyoshi Kimura; photographed by Koichi Kitayama)