Getting to a new WE: Beyond the Categories– Bob Stilger’s Notes from Japan #45 ~ March 7th

I didn’t expect to be writing so soon again, but there’s a story that needs to be told.  Today I was at a forum organized by ETIC and the Learning Institute at Fuji Xerox.  The forum brought together a cross-section of 50 or so people from business and the nonprofit sector to talk with each other about social innovation.  I’ll make this short.

Here’s the sense that was in the room.  NPOs alone can’t make a difference.  Business alone can’t make a difference.  CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is a poor cousin.  Neither the young or the old can do it alone.  Both men and women are needed.  In many ways, nothing revolutionary — but so refreshing to hear from so many different people.  We need each other.

My friend Hide Inoue, the founder of Social Venture Partners Tokyo who is currently a fellow at Stanford came back for the session.  He led off.  He began with a short period of meditation — on the 15th floor of a high tech office building in the middle of Tokyo.  He talked about how it’s time for us to have an integration of me=work=society rather than a separation.  He talked about how we now need to learn to work with our logic, our creativity and our bodies.  Again, not revolutionary.  What was refreshing was watching people lean in and nod.

What is your business vision?  What is your mission? What is the collective impact you want to achieve?

Here’s part of the back story.  Three years ago in Japan I found myself working with business in Japan on change issues.  I was surprised.  I’ve done a lot of work with business in the US, but I’ve never thought of business as a ally in change.  But it felt like they were in Japan.  If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you’ve heard me talking about Fujitsu asking questions like “what can Fujitsu do for people with dementia?” or Honda asking “what can Honda do for people too old to drive?”  As I thought about my own responses here, I reflected further and went back a couple of thousand years or so to a time when Japan was a country of small villages isolated by precipitous mountains.  With rice grown in paddies as the main food, it took a village to feed itself business and community were the same thing.  This base still prevails.  In Japan business is still part of community rather than apart from community.

How do we get collective impact?  We get rid of the categories.  We stop thinking in terms of customers and clients and consumers and we start thinking in terms of community.  It’s not that hard.  We are community.

This isn’t about CSR, which often feels like an anemic after thought, almost an apology.  It’s about the question of how we’re going to meet the real needs and opportunities in communities — AS A CORE BUSINESS.  Of course any business doing this is going to try to make a profit.  And any NPO that’s going to be around for the long term better be looking at a making a profit as well.

It’s not about making an obscene profit — it’s about making a fair profit.  Part of what is more catawompus (my Japanese friends will have fun with that) is the US is the increasingly crazy, unsustainable and dangerous distribution of wealth — have a look at this YouTube Video I received today, a pretty amazing commentary on wealth in the US.

Now, just one more wave in today’s tale.  Throughout the afternoon different people were talking about BA o Tsukuru  (場うつくる) which means, literally, making the space that holds us – our relational field.  And they were talking about how businesses don’t have the capacity to create “BA”; they need people from the nonprofit sector.  Reminded me of last weekend’s conversation that I wrote about earlier today about men wanting women on their teams because it changes the relational field.

I just find this terribly exciting and energizing.  I hope you do as well.  Part of the context here, of course, is what is the business of rebuilding the disaster area in Tohoku?  How can business be true partners?  How can we create the BA that allows this kind of generative space to arise.  And that’s part of what we’re doing with the Tohoku Futures Network.

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2 thoughts on “Getting to a new WE: Beyond the Categories– Bob Stilger’s Notes from Japan #45 ~ March 7th”

  1. mizuho kyoto japan

    “How can we create the BA that allows this kind of generative space to arise”?

    I have been thinking this issue for long time too. This question can refer to the understanding of the long-discussed issue around quantum physics and nothingness in Buddhism, I think. Nothingness has everything and this is understandable for the intuitive mind. Meanwhile, what quantum physics experiences at the depth of its theory is said that it seems to tell us a mystery, that is, the potential that goes beyond the time and space.. And that is nothingness that holds all the potential.. Back to the first question: now the current society draws a line between the intuitive mind and science, but then, the potential that will be given in the nothingness or everything (!) is deprived automatically. The mechanical system has influenced our way of thinking for long in this way since the industrial revolution in 17th century as well as the birth of science in 16th century. So, how the society can realize the importance of intuitive mind has the key for the BA that we want, I think.. Not the separation of natural science but towards reunion of them for the real wisdom of spiritual science.. I hope I won’t sound too jargonistic but .. I think it is after all necessary to approach from the both ways: one of the grass-root effort and another effort in the established system.

    The model in your work-in-progress seems to show how to actually approach to the latter, and the collaboration of “Stabilizing the old system”, “Building bridges”, and “Creating new systems” sounds wonderfully systematic idea that looks effective.

    Parallel to this, what we need to be aware is, I think, that most of us were grown educated under the latter system, and, as the result, our minds are much influenced by the mechanical or rational methodology. What we want to remember is, however, that we can believe the potential. In fact, the potential is embraced by everybody, even in the established system. We shall believe it and sense the potential in all the beings, so that the power will synchronize and resonate to awaken the long-asleep intuitive force.. In this sense, our real enemy can be sometimes our own prejudiced mind that make judgement easily but not the established system!

    After all, whether we can cultivate the sensibility to sense the potential in anything is very critical, maybe 😉 May the experiences that we have had, sometimes from which we suffered, will help us to deepen our sensibility for the goal..

    Please help me how to understand your point of view deeper for the goal some other time!

    Thanks Bob!

  2. WOW! Mizuho, you are wonderfully articulate! What you say here rings true to me. I am especially taken by the comments you make about the ways in which we have been educated, if you will, learned away from our true mind .

    I remember a conversation I had with a young woman in Japan sometime in last couple of years. She talked about returning to her home village after there had been a very damaging landslide on a hill after a rainy season. She talked to her grandmother who said “it happened because of our disrespect to th gods.” She was able to understand we her grandmother meant; she would not have said it that way herself, but she was able to understand meaning and importance of wha her grandmother said. She went on to day that she did not think her young daughter would be able to understand. She, herself, still felt close enough to the ancient wisdom that she understood — but only when reminded,

    So, of course, one of the important questions becomes how do we work in this time?

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