8 Jan

Norishige Hayakawa

What led you to your current career path – and what advice would you have for someone considering following in your footsteps?

Having a strong passion and aspiration to create new businesses that change the world and to pursue “challenge and innovation” – the DNA of Mitsui & Co – made me what I am today.

Through my experience leading various new businesses with partners across borders, I found that most people could not recognise and accept the value of new and innovative business ideas at first and would rather criticise them. However, I strongly believe that this negative reaction could indicate a high probability of success. It is extremely difficult to create an innovative business by anticipating the future from a unique perspective, especially in Japanese culture, which requires consensus from all participants; however, I would advise you that it is worth trying. It brings great value to the world.

You have won acclaim for being an architect of new business structures, such as the sovereign IP fund and IP Bridge. What challenges have you encountered working on completely new ways of doing business and how have you overcome them?

In order to create new and innovative business structures, we need to be able to forecast the future and change the current status by making a paradigm shift. The fact is that the future is not an extension of the past or the present. We should let go of our past successes and current fixed mindset. However, most people cannot escape from those.

I believe that the secret of a successful innovative business is being “70% against and 30% in favour”. Amid such challenges, I have faced solitary fights. To overcome them, I believe that no matter how many people are against an idea or refuse to show a positive reaction, we need to have a strong passion for changing the world and an iron will to never give up. Of course, a few strong supporters are essential as well.

If you could change one thing about the commericalisation landscape in Japan, what would it be and why?

Reforming the mindset of top management and the government would be indispensable. Intangible assets should be seen as more valuable than tangible ones. Although the sources of profits are changing in the 21st century, most Japanese companies have stuck to their successful 20th century business model of good manufacturing and tangible assets. The government and top management of all industries, including energy, services and finance, as well as manufacturing, need to recognise that finding and maximising the value of invisible assets in Japan are critical tasks that we should be dealing with urgently.

How do you keep clients on board – especially when the stakes are high and the landscape unfamiliar?

Without understanding where we stand today, we cannot change ourselves in the future. From a macro perspective, I often lecture on the latest world trends and Japanese history, which shows that Japan currently lags behind, as it did in the Edo period, but also how Japanese society developed and overtook the Western world through bold challenges and innovation after the Samurai era. Based on this recognition, I will emphasise three points: first, the future does not belong to the past, it belongs to those who dare to seize it. Second, the size of the current risk is proportional to the level of success in the future. Finally, new business is a field that no one is experienced or familiar with, that is why it is worth challenging and we should create the future ourselves. In the end, I encourage top executives to change their mindset and support decision making in the right direction.

You have built a name for yourself in analysing future trends. What three big tech developments should companies be looking out for and how can they best prepare themselves?

When we consider the world and our lifestyles after covid-19, I would suggest keeping an eye on three areas: blockchain, which should be considered in various industries; medical healthcare, including mental health; and agri-tech to deal with increasing populations in developing countries. More specifically, blockchain for the economy of new communities and its securities; augmented human technology to extend the functions of the human body, including sense and mind; and agri-tech in regard to robotics, gene development and alternative proteins.

Norishige Hayakawa

Founder and CEO
[email protected]

Norishige Hayakawa is a founder and the CEO of Hagaminomori Design and a professor at the Graduate School of Project Design. Utilising his 30 years’ experience at Mitsui & Co, he supports several leading Japanese companies, government organisations and SMEs by designing their business structure for commercialisation, maximisation of profits and expansion to overseas markets, as well as advising on project management and intellectual assets strategy, including new IP profit models combining IT and financial technologies. He regularly lectures on the importance of intangible assets for corporate strategy to Japanese executives.

Click here to see his IAM 300 2020 profile.