Commencement Address by Glen S. Fukushima at JAIMS Graduation Ceremony in 2001

On November 16, 2001, Glen was invited to give the commencement address at the graduation ceremony in Tokyo for students of JAIMS (Japan-America Institute of Management Science).

Below is text of Glen’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Tokyo, Japan
16 November 2001

Glen S. Fukushima
President & CEO, Cadence Design Systems, Japan
Immediate Past President, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan

Chairman Sekizawa, President Miyataki, Dean McClain, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and graduates of the JEMBA (Japan-focused Master of Business Administration) and CHEMBA (China-focused Master of Business Administration) programs of JAIMS (the Japan-America Institute of Management Science).

I am indeed honored to be invited today to present the Commencement Address at this ceremony to celebrate the graduation of 18 students from the JEMBA program and five students from the CHEMBA program. Let me begin by offering my heartfelt congratulations to all 23 graduates.

You should all feel enormously proud of your accomplishments—first, being accepted into your respective programs, and second, having successfully completed the intensive 15-month programs provided through the unique partnership between JAIMS and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, College of Business Administration.

The programs are ideally suited to prepare you for the world of global business in the 21st century. Both programs consist of an intensive 12-month curriculum, completed this year on July 27, of core MBA courses, rigorous business language instruction in Japanese or Mandarin, and advanced courses in international business that focus on Japan or China. This was followed by a three-month internship, this year from August 27 to November 9, where you have had the opportunity to apply the business knowledge and language skills learned in the classroom to real-world intercultural business environments in Tokyo, Shanghai, Seattle, and Honolulu. You are assembled in Tokyo today upon having submitted your internship reports to your faculty advisers.

The JEMBA and CHEMBA programs have combined the three elements that I believe are essential for you to become global leaders in your respective fields—first, intellectual knowledge, analytical skills, and conceptual tools for business; second, foreign language fluency and sensitivity to and understanding of foreign cultures; and third, intensive real-world business experience in a global setting. But these are necessary, not sufficient, conditions for you to attain your professional goals.

As someone who has been involved in cross-cultural and intercultural engagements for much of my 52 years in a variety of professions—academia, journalism, law, government, and business—I would like to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned in the hope that they may be of some use to you as you embark upon your careers in the exciting field of global management. In the interest of time, I will limit myself to 10 issues that I believe may have particular relevance to your future roles as global managers.

The first observation is that learning is an unending quest. Although the JEMBA and CHEMBA programs have provided you an excellent educational foundation, the facts that you learned in the programs will almost certainly be overtaken by events. For instance, when I was a student at the Harvard Business School in the late 1970s, few would have predicted that 10 years later, in 1989, the Berlin Wall would fall, leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union and to the end of the Cold War, or that by the mid-1990s practically all global business executives would be communicating using the Internet and electronic mail, or that in the 21st century information technology would become a critical element of most companies’ corporate strategy. This is why mastering facts alone is inadequate. This is why concepts, theories, analytical tools, “critical thinking,” and learning how to think and how to learn are so important in order not only to keep abreast of changes in the world but to know how to deal effectively with these changes. This is why you cannot allow yourself to be satisfied with the facts you have learned in school or rest complacently on your past laurels. You need always to remain intellectually curious and actively seek out new ideas, new learning, and new ways of looking at the world.

The second observation is that the only constant in business is change. This can be seen on the global level, as in China’s recent accession to the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the changes that will bring to the global trading system. I was in Beijing just last week, and I can tell you that there is enormously impressive progress taking place there on a number of fronts—economic, political, social—all of which are bound to accelerate as China prepares for the Olympic Games in 2008. On the regional level, APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum), NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), and the EU (European Union) are creating significant changes that are affecting the conduct of business. On the national level, the U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1996, for instance, has led to a transformation of the U.S. telecommunications industry, so much so that the “old” AT&T now looks radically different from when I worked there just a few short years ago—between 1990 and 1998—whether one looks at AT&T the services company, Lucent Technologies the equipment manufacturer, or NCR the computer company—which until 1996 were all part of the “old” AT&T. This is why you should always remain flexible and resilient, and receptive to change—whether on the global, regional, national, organizational, or individual level.

The third observation is that success in business requires not only intellectual understanding but appropriate, timely, and effective action. During my work as a management consultant leading the Japan operations of Arthur D. Little, I saw numerous companies that were impressively successful in formulating elegant strategies but were utterly incapable of translating them into action. One of the most refreshing and important aphorisms I’ve run across in business is one attributed to Percy Barnevik, former CEO of ABB (Asea Brown Boveri), the Swiss-Swedish multinational corporation: “Strategy is execution!” This is why, although theories and concepts are important, as I indicated before, you always need to test them in the real world and not be satisfied with merely having formulated a plan or strategy. After all, actions and results in the real world are what count.

The fourth observation is that the boundaries between industries are starting to blur. Is IBM a computer manufacturer or a service provider? Is General Electric a manufacturing company or a financial services company? Is an on-line bookstore or an on-line department store? The blurring of industry boundaries means that what one learns in one industry can often have applicability to another industry. For example, Mari Matsunaga, who was a central contributor to the phenomenally successful “i-mode” mobile Internet service in Japan, came to NTT DoCoMo not from a telecommunications background but from the publishing industry. Similar analogies might come to mind in the case of John Scully at Apple or Lou Gerstner at IBM. The implication here is that virtually any quality work experience you have can be valuable to you as your personal asset, even if you are moving across industry lines. I have found in my own work, for instance, that I have been able to apply profitably my experience in AT&T (in telecommunications) and Arthur D. Little (in management consulting) to my current job of leading the Japan operations of Cadence Design Systems, the world’s leading supplier of software for EDA, or electronic design automation.

The fifth observation is that there is much that the public sector can learn from the private sector, and vice versa. I know that most of you are interested in working in a global business, but I would encourage you, if you have the opportunity, to experience work in the public sector as well—whether in federal, state, or local government, or in NPOs (non-profit organizations). (I am pleased to note here that one of the CHEMBA students wrote that she aspired in the future to be the U.S. Ambassador to China.) The five years I spent in Washington, D.C. at the Office of the United States Trade Representative, as well as the five years as Vice President and two years as President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, were invaluable experiences for me to understand the larger social and political framework in which companies operate. The importance of the public sector, especially the role of government, appeared to be receding since the end of the Cold War, but the events of September 11 have dramatically illustrated the continuing importance of the public sector in dealing with global political, cultural, and military issues, areas in which the private sector usually has less direct ability to influence.

The sixth observation is that the global and cultural dimensions of business merit much more attention than they have at present. All of you are fortunate, through the JEMBA and CHEMA programs, to have acquired an excellent foundation in this area. Despite the widespread use of English as the international language of business and despite the diffusion of Western concepts and forms of business—whether in accounting rules, disclosure requirements, or corporate governance—the fact is that most people in the world do not speak English, nor have they adopted the so-called “Anglo-American” form of capitalism. Whether on the macro level of understanding Islamic fundamentalism or the micro level of how to exchange business cards in Japan, understanding and dealing with cultural differences is key to success in global business. All too often, American business people fall into the trap of ethnocentrism, a scourge you will find yourself battling against, as I have throughout my own career.

The seventh observation, related to the above, is that the acquisition of foreign language fluency can be important for success in global business. By learning another language well, one can both absorb and convey new ideas and information, often inaccessible in one’s own native tongue. In addition to providing a medium of communication, languages can open up a whole new world of concepts and ways of looking at the world. It can also help to better understand one’s own native language and culture—their characteristics and uniqueness. Although I studied Spanish in elementary school, French in high school, and German and Japanese in college, I cannot claim to be a linguist. However, studying these languages has taught me about the diversity of thought processes, logic, and conceptualization represented by each of these underlying cultures—the Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and, by comparison, the American. Like learning itself, foreign language acquisition is a never-ending quest, one which I urge all of you to continue to pursue, even if your linguistic skills are already highly developed.

The eighth observation is the need to effectively manage a diverse workforce. One of the consequences of globalization is that the labor force has become increasingly mobile and diverse—that is, there is no longer a necessary identity between the citizenship of the worker, the nationality of the company in which he or she works, and the geographic location of work. For instance, one of the most high-profile business executives in Japan today is Carlos Ghosn, a Brazilian citizen of Lebanese ancestry, educated in France and now the CEO of Nissan, a Japanese automotive company headquartered in Tokyo but with significant French capital infusion. And my company, headquartered in Silicon Valley, has a tremendous diversity of talent from around the world. In her recent study entitled Silicon Valley’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs, University of California at Berkeley professor AnnaLee Saxenian writes: “Silicon Valley is the home of the integrated circuit, or IC—but when local technologists claim that ‘Silicon Valley is built on ICs’ they refer not to chips, but to Indian and Chinese engineers.” As global managers, you will almost certainly find that being able to effectively manage a diverse workforce—not only in nationality but in citizenship, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, age, etc.—will be essential to your success.

This subject of workforce mobility and diversity is a subject dear to my heart, for several reasons. First, for many years I have been in the position of seeking high-caliber individuals to hire to join me in my organization—whether at my former law firm, USTR, AT&T, Arthur D. Little, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, or in my current company, Cadence Design Systems. Second, whether in the United States or Japan—or any country, for that matter—what has become known as “the war for talent” has been escalating in recent years. A book published this year by the Harvard Business School Press entitled The War for Talent, based on a study originally released by McKinsey & Co. in 1997, is based on the following theme: “How strong is your talent pool? The answer will determine your company’s long-term success.” Just as all of you have joined this “war for talent” among employers eager to hire you and secure your talents, you, as global managers, will soon be in the position of seeking out talented individuals to help achieve your organization’s goals, whether in the private sector or public sector. Identifying, hiring, training, developing, motivating, and retaining these high-caliber people will be a top priority for you as global managers.

A third reason for my interest in this subject of human resources and talent is that my wife, Sakie, after obtaining her MBA from Stanford in 1987 and working for three years as a strategy management consultant at Bain & Co., joined Korn/Ferry International, the world’s largest executive search firm. She currently leads the Japan operations of the firm and for the past six years has been a member of its board of directors in the Los Angeles corporate headquarters. Her job focuses on assisting multinational corporations—primarily American and European, but increasingly Japanese as well—to identify and recruit highly qualified individuals to assume senior executive-level positions, primarily in Japan. She has seen dramatic changes in the Japanese labor market during her 10 years in the search profession, but one constant is that all of her clients are engaged intensively in the “war for talent.” What she finds is that the ascriptive traits of job candidates are becoming less relevant, as organizations increasingly realize that, in order to be competitive, they need to hire the most capable individuals for the job regardless of nationality, citizenship, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, age, etc. What this means is that, even in a country like Japan, we are starting to see diversity in corporate leadership—that is, CEOs and other leaders emerging who do not fit the traditional stereotype of the 60-plus-year-old Japanese male who has worked in one organization for his entire career.

The ninth observation is that you should not be afraid to take risks, innovate, and challenge the status quo. Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka of Sony, Andy Grove of Intel, Steve Jobs of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Masayoshi Son of Softbank, Michael Dell of Dell Computers, etc., etc.—none of these individuals succeeded by following in the established footsteps of their elders. They all innovated—they took enormous risks and challenged the orthodox ways of doing things. It is often pointed out that one of the reasons that venture capital has not developed to a significant level in Japan is that this is a risk-averse culture where a single failure may stigmatize an individual forever. The dynamism of Silicon Valley, by contrast, is in part due to a culture where venture capitalists would often prefer to fund an entrepreneur who has tried and failed than one who hasn’t tried at all, since the former has presumably learned from his or her past failures. One obviously needs to be prudent and study the market before plunging into a new enterprise, but the rewards of taking intelligent risks can be enormous. You probably know the story of Fred Smith. As an undergraduate at Yale College, he wrote a paper proposing a business case of an overnight package delivery service. His professor gave him a “C,” saying that the idea would never work. Ignoring this, Smith went on to create Federal Express, the successful multi-million dollar enterprise that also stimulated the creation of several competitors and thus spawned a whole new industry.

The tenth and final observation is that the determination to succeed in business needs to be tempered by a sense of balance and perspective about the role of business in society, including the responsibilities of an enterprise to its stakeholders. These would include the employees, shareholders, partners, customers, suppliers, and community at large. Adhering to health and safety standards, labor laws, and environmental regulations; contributing to the community; and dealing ethically with all parties—in essence, being a “good corporate citizen” is essential. Important also is knowing the limits of “the market.” The market is a truly remarkable mechanism for resource allocation, but—Milton Friedman notwithstanding—it is not always perfect.

In addition to the organizational level of the enterprise, each of you as individual global managers will need to establish your own personal code of conduct, especially as you work in environments where the laws, regulations, social practices, and business conduct may not be consistent across countries.

The need for a sense of balance also refers to the balance between work and recreation, between the office and the home, between work and one’s family, between work and one’s personal life, and so on. In other words, being successful global managers is a laudable goal, but one needs to be aware of the potential of personal sacrifices that may be required to attain certain professional goals. In this sense, having a clear set of personal priorities can help in making conscious tradeoffs and maintaining a sense of balance and perspective. Being insufficiently conscious of these issues can lead to conflicts in one’s family and personal relationships, or even lead to serious psychological or physical consequences. We all know of hyper-active “Type A” managers who would not have “burned out” on their job had they paced themselves more carefully and been more conscious of their priorities and tradeoffs.

I have briefly offered ten “observations,” based on my own experience, which I hope may be of some help to you as you embark on your new careers. You have an exciting time ahead of you. Although the world economy is in a comparative lull at present, most observers predict that by this time next year the U.S. economy will have begun its recovery. Having just returned yesterday from the United States, I can tell you that the U.S. stock market has already reacted positively to the recent news from Afghanistan and to the preliminary finding that the American Airlines plane crash in New York City earlier this week was most likely caused not by a terrorist act but by pilot error or a mechanical failure of some kind.

In the global markets of the 21st century, business opportunities are boundless. With hard work, focus, creativity, resourcefulness, commitment, determination, and a little luck, you should all do well. The JEMBA and CHEMBA programs have certainly equipped you with an excellent advantage in your pursuit of global business success.

Let me conclude my address with a quotation from Peter Drucker, the management guru who, at the age of 92, just wrote an article for the November 3rd issue of the Economist entitled “The Next Society: A Survey of the Near Future”:

Following the information revolution, once again we see the emergence of new institutions and new theories. . . . All this suggests that the greatest changes are almost certainly still ahead of us. We can also be sure that the society of 2030 will be very different from that of today, and that it will bear little resemblance to that predicted by today’s best-selling futurists. It will not be dominated or even shaped by information technology. IT will, of course, be important, but it will be only one of several important new technologies. The central feature of the next society, as of its predecessors, will be new institutions and new theories, ideologies, and problems.

I prepared most of my remarks for today before reading Drucker’s article, which I read yesterday in the airplane returning to Tokyo from San Francisco. But I’m pleased that his views and mine are largely consistent. I think Drucker would agree that for those entering the global marketplace today, among the important factors to keep in mind are (1) learning as an unending quest, (2) change as a constant, (3) action as a crucial check on theory, (4) industry boundaries as blurring, (5) the public sector as a complement to the private sector, (6) global and cultural dimensions of business as critical, (7) foreign language acquisition as important, (8) workforce diversity as a key trend, (9) intelligent risk-taking as essential, and (10) a sense of balance and perspective as indispensable.

Again, congratulations on successfully completing the JEMBA and CHEMBA programs. And best of luck in your new endeavors. I urge you to be bold, be ambitious, and be demanding. Set high standards for yourself and those who work with you. And may all of you be successful beyond your wildest dreams in attaining your personal and professional goals and aspirations!

Thank you, and good luck!