Aptly Titled, a Great Book to Read About “Whither Japan?”

This being New Year’s Day, I will recommend one book to read in 2024 to learn about not only about the challenges that Japan faces, but how the country is evolving to cope with them (and even thrive) in the global economy.  Richard Katz hits the nail on the head in many ways, but to summarize a major theme;  if Japan is to fare better during next 15 years than its past 25 years would seem to indicate, it will not be because the business models and management thinking of  its large firms are simply updated. Rather, it will be because  a rising tide of ambitious  young Japanese (and foreign!)  entrepreneurs with new mindsets about their career goals, innovation, and the need to “think out of the box” unencumbered by “Big Company Disease, — create and grow new companies more rapidly than in the past, and essentially “defeat” (or displace, or collaborate with) well-known large Japanese companies and their established practices…many of which practices are, in fact, eroding and evolving. (In fact, by making corporate governance more effective, BDTI seeks to accelerate such necessary changes at Japanese companies.)

If it happens, this could be revolutionary for the Japanese economy. Being the impatient sort, I’m not sure how optimistic I am that these changes will proceed as fast as I would like, but Japan does seem to be moving in this direction. As someone who has been a social entrepreneur for the past 14 years,  and led the 2010 ACCJ “Growth Strategy Task Force” White Paper that set the base for Abenomics’ “structural reform” (which WP included a thick chapter on the need to promote entrepreneurship, and was all based on the need to enhance productivity), — many of the author’s well-documented points resonate deeply with me.  But the book adds many new perspectives, concrete examples and analyses that I was not aware of.

The book is very aptly titled because in some sense many of Japan’s well-established listed companies  use governance and management practices that are in a sense  (currently) an obstacle to Japan’s future… so unless they are undermined or forced to change faster by upcoming competition from younger firms, Japan’s economic future will be more bleak than we all wish. So in a sense, a subtle “contest” is indeed underway now, and “who wins it” matters a lot.

You can order the book here:

The Contest for Japan’s Economic Future: Entrepreneurs vs. Corporate Giants

This book needs to be translated into Japanese.  I hope Richard is working on that.

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