May 11 ~ Bob Stilger’s Notes from Japan #14: Shikoku

Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s four largest islands.  Located a bit to the west and south of Osaka and Kobe, it is mostly rural, definitely part of the chihoo — which sometimes means rural and other times means anyplace other than Tokyo!

I came for the beginning of Future Center week, which is actually almost two weeks of intense Future Center activity across eastern and western Japan.  Plans for this began amount a month ago when some of us started to see that the form called “Future Centers” might be of particular value at this time in Japan.  I’ll come back to that in a later note.
In Japan, as elsewhere, change comes from the margins.  The Meiji Restoration which marked the end of feudal, Tokugawa Japan, far from Edo (Tokyo) on the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku.  Perhaps that’s because people of the chihoo are often more closely connected to the ground, to where they live, to community.
For most people in Takamatsu, the largest city in Shikoku, the Tohoku Region with its earthquakes, tsunami and radiation is far away.  People want to be helpful, but they have no idea how.  Sure, they have raised money and sent food and materials – but that feels somewhat empty and incomplete. What can we do, they ask?  My responses feel incomplete — think about your own communities and own lives.  How resilient are your lives?  Have you built where the tsunami’s have come before?  What change do you want to invite in, now?
There is an odd combination of normalcy and restlessness.  People want to hear about my own experiences and impressions from Ishinomaki.  There is a hunger to make what has happened in the northeast more understandable.  People would like their normal lives back.  They’d like to not think about Tohoku.  But the destruction in Tohoku still looms over all.
I spent my weekend hosting a Future Center session for 40 or so employees of a regional television station with 3 million viewers.  Two years ago the CEO of this privately held company realized he wanted to invite others to co-create the station’s future.  He started to engage in “reflective leadership,” and began inviting dialog into the company.
The weekend was filled with surprises.  Little worked the way I expected.  I wasn’t fully prepared for the dynamics of working with a group of only men (one woman from the company joined on the second day).  It took a while for the diversity that was present to begin to surface.  In the end, two questions had emerged that excited me the most:
  1) What if the main job of senior leaders is to liberate the creativity of the company?
  2) What if the main mission of our television station is to liberate the creativity of our  viewers and of the region as a whole?
I’ll never know how the atmosphere might have been had 3.11 not happened.  But I’ll tell you want I think.  I think we went deeper, faster, to some essential questions about the purpose and meaning of our lives.  There’s this pool of energy right under the surface — emotional, subtle, spiritual — that people in Japan find more quickly now.  It is a thoughtful place where people are asking questions about the nature of their lives.
Best,
Bob

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