Unleashing Leadership and Inspiring Innovation and Creativity in Japan

Once again I am awake in the middle of the Japanese night.  Head and heart buzzing from yesterday’s work.  I was invited to join KDI — Knowledge Management Initiative in Tokyo for a afternoon workshop with participants in their new Future Center.  KDI was started 10 years ago to work with knowledge creation and realationships to knowledge, building in part on the inspiring work of Dr. Ikugjiiro Nonaka .  There approach is one which places emphasis on “individual vitality” and the  “dynamic field,” or ba.

Crazy bunch, with titles like “Wild Knowledge Architect, “Ba Conductor,” and “Sexy Works Stylist,” they work together in an almost completely flexible workspace in the middle of Roppongi, the international district of Tokyo.  What caught my attention most is where they’re headed.  They’ve been looking at the Future Center idea currently being developed in more than 30 locations in Europe.  See The Reality of European Future Centres.  Last week I wrote about a deep resonance between the work being done by GreenHouse Project and Kufunda Learning Village in Southern Africa and the work of St. Luke’s Health Initiatives.  Guess what?  The resonance continues.

Future Centers, at least as envisoned by Dr. Takahiko Nomura, KDI founder, are incredibly similar to leadership learning centers in the Berkana Exchange.  The core work of Future Centers is to surface the knowledge, wisdom and leadership already present in organizations and to create conditions which all it to be used by all for maximum creativity and innovation.  AND, the same four core competencies we surfaced last month at St. Luke’s Health Initiatives show up as core in Future Centers:

  • connect and convene
  • peer learning
  • source of research and information
  • strengths based approach

So we spent the afternoon with about 35 people from a dozen or so Japanese companies who are thinking about embracing the Future Center concept, each creating a Future Center inside their company as well as a trans-local network which links these Future Centers as a community of Practice.

I think it is going to happen.  These folks are going to step forward and start using all forms of conversational leadership to invite innovation forward.  AND, like elsewhere in the world they’re not doing it because it is the next groovy thing to do, they’re doing it because they know their survival depends on it.

I continue to be impressed with the level of receptivity in Japan for new ways of thinking about leadership, creativity and innovation.  It is not just thinking about it — it is a yearning to step into new practice fields with new partners.

One last note.  We talked about the community of practice work KDI has done over the last 10 years.  The conversation is incomplete, but part of what we talked about is how in their communities of practice perhaps the most important thing that’s happened is that people have learned they are not alone. Others have some of the same intentions and ideas they do.  We’ve always looked at Communities of Practice as places where knowledge is created.  That’s part of their function.  What may be more important is that they are places which people discover more about their own identity and step into their own leadership.

Beginning of a fascinating several weeks in my adopted homeland.

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4 thoughts on “Unleashing Leadership and Inspiring Innovation and Creativity in Japan”

  1. People who are curious and open find themselves with a hunger that is hard to sate. When you show up with food, the platters are devoured.

    No doubts about the sustainability of what you are starting. Just know that I have your back when, after practicing in the world for a few months, this group of people returns to you with a hundredfold increase in their questions! Then the practitioners are truly born!

  2. Thanks Chris. Reminds me of what someone said recently: these ideas are simple AND they are the practice of a lifetime! Glad you’re at my back — and I’m at yours!

  3. Dear Bob – so happy to hear of your return to Japan! Since I have known you, you have carried the wisdom and calling from that part of your world in your heart to other parts of the world… and I look forward not only to be learning more as a witness to your work there – but also in being open to the gifts that Japan has to offer the world at this time. It is good to know there are so many friends-yet-to-meet who also hold deep care and practice towards more resilient communities. Thank you for taking the time and the words to share… with love, Tatiana

  4. Dear Tatiana,

    How delightful to find you here. Yes, this return to Japan has been very powerful for me. We’ve now done a three day Art of Hosting and a three day Art of Social Innovation. Tomorrow Annie and I speak at TEDxTokyo. And, yesterday was my 61st birthday. Much is stirring! Thanks for coming by.

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