Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Matsushita Leadership - John P. Kotter.

The last book I read which really made me reflect upon my own management skills and life goals was 'The Honda Myth' by Masaaki Sato. See, there's something about Japanese management (or related) books that implore you to reflect. At least, working in a Japanese environment has taught me that it is not uncommon for the culture to do so especially when something goes awry.

I used to think that Soichiro Honda was one of the most revered person in Japan and it was not just because he built cars. The man built dreams. But Kotter has given me another perspective of what it means to be admirable. In words, actions and thoughts, Konosuke Matsushita is no stranger to this group of islands from Far East.

Born in a comfortable environment, Matsushita went through hell (literally) when his family fell apart before he even reached his teenage years. In a family of 10, he was the last surviving one in his tender years. He had nothing but a savings of a hundred yen. And he created what today we would call, a start up. No one could have guessed that a global electronics giant called Panasonic was once upon a time, an entrepreneurial dream of a boy who literally gained his riches from rags.

Soichiro Honda taught us the challenging spirit - to trudge on, no matter how difficult the task is. Konosuke Matsushita propagated the same. The difference is, Honda probably had equal parts of ups and downs but Matsushita was most of the time, nose-diving to the bottom. Of course, the phoenix always rises from the ash, he overcame most of the challenges as what we witness the state of Panasonic today. But what was immortal was his spirit. His relentless spirit in his belief of humanity and that everything he does, encapsulates that belief. He built a company to serve society, so that everyone could prosper. So that customers could afford electrical goods to have a more comfortable life, so that his employees when trained to produce efficiently could afford more time to enjoy their prosperity. Such noble cause. Such humble spirit.

I'm not sure how much of that philosophy is translated into Panasonic's global working culture today. I certainly hope that that spirit itself has been immortalized even though Konosuke Matsushita is long gone. Here's a poem that the man himself took fancy and it kind of reminded me of some conversations between friends and associates. My peers were worried about hitting the big age 30. Why big age? I have no idea. 30 to me is where the fun starts because one is now in a position to put in use what one has learned for the past 8 working years and in the words of Matsushita, prosper. But they were worried because it's a sign of old age. If 30 was old, then what about 40? And what on earth would we do when we hit 60? Retire from life!? Then what happens to the rest of our lives? Why in our youth, we're so resigned and hurried to grow old? So to everyone who feels that way... here's Matsushita's favourite poem for you:


Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind, it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means the temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing childlike appetite of what's next, and the joy of the game of living.

In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young. When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty. But as long as your aerials are up, to catch waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.


Cheers to you. To a life of infinite learning.

p/s: Sorry you can't borrow this from Sparks because it belongs to Dentsu :)

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