Learn From the President! Vol. 10 – Meetings Are This Important!?

(Itoi) Perhaps there are some young women reading these “Learn From the President!” conversations, and I think they may feel like “Why do I have to learn from the president?” but are learning just the same. For example, when a man and woman are dating, they’re continually worrying about “Maybe they’ll dump me tomorrow” as they see one another, and can no longer actually do anything right?

(Iwata) (Laughs) Yeah.

(Itoi) Then as you get dumped more and more, you’re headed toward the death of love. But when you start thinking that it doesn’t matter whether or not you get dumped, it turns to “Dear, please stop shoplifting”……

(Iwata) (Laughs) That may be what you’d call falling in love all over again.

(Itoi) A company barely staying in business and a couple being on the brink of breakup are exactly the same thing. Humans usually always worry about those sorts of things as early as when they’re in grade school…….Actually when I was a kid I had neglected to return a book to the library, and late fees were accumulating. I had nightmares about it. (Laughs) If you actually calculate it, the late fees accumulate as the days go by to the point a kid just couldn’t afford them. If it’s 5 yen per day, that’s 500 yen in 100 days. On the day that you finally say “……I’ve had enough!”, 5 more yen is added onto that. I was always thinking about that on days when I was off from school or home with a fever. When I would run into someone from the library on the street and they would say “Good morning”, I couldn’t help but feel distressed.

If you’re wondering where this story is going, when I went over to a slightly less well behaved friend’s house and we pulled out our comics. He said “Eh? What’s with this one? Is it alright that you’ve got this?”. I said “I don’t care anymore, I’ve had it for years already!”. Of course it was a bad excuse, but regardless worrying every day without doing anything didn’t do me any good. If you’re going to worry then you should worry a lot.

(Iwata) It’s just my opinion, but people do worry about small things.

(Itoi) (Laughs) Wow! That’s so true!

(Iwata) It’s fine to worry if you’re going to worry about something and resolve it, but people think about things that aren’t resolved by worrying about them, or that they gain nothing from worrying about.

(Itoi) Almost everyone worries. It’s particularly common among creators and students preparing for exams……

(Iwata) Yes. Yet even though I’m not at HAL Laboratory, the spotlight really shines on problems found only in the old stories from those days. Yet it still shines on them.

(Itoi) Now that I think about it, you’ve given me some great resources. In other words, even though you went on to be the president of Nintendo afterward, if you hadn’t had those experiences……

(Iwata) Right, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it.

(Itoi) It’s not something you can do by reading any textbook, is it?

(Iwata) Or maybe I should say it isn’t likely I could have done it from reading books.

(Itoi) Even if similar cases had been abstracted and written about, they wouldn’t have any meaning.

(Iwata) Yeah.

(Itoi) I’ve looked at your meetings with much amusement, almost as though they were a specialty product. But you said that you “met with everyone once every six months”. Looking at it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t do mundane things disguised as routines, like you Mr. Iwata, this seems like the most daringly mundane work that you could do. You say that you met with “everyone”, how many people would that have been at its highest?

(Iwata) At its highest it would have been anywhere from about 80 to 90 people.

(Itoi) How long would you spend with each of them?

(Iwata) For the short ones it was about 20 minutes, and for the long ones about 3 hours.

(Itoi) And how many years did you do this for?

(Iwata) For about 6 or 7 years.

(Itoi) That’s a very big deal……

(Iwata) Yes.

(Itoi) I’ve avoided asking you about this “dreadful thing” up until now, but……what did you talk about in these meetings?

(Iwata) At first I tried to listen to what everyone had to say, and there were a ton of things that I only understood once I started meeting with people. I thought to myself again “Can’t people say anything without having things turned around on them?”. I think that I’m the type of person to create a chance for myself to communicate, even if the person I’m communicating with doesn’t give me one. If there were a bunch of people like me in a group, you wouldn’t need these meetings. That’s because they’d say what was necessary to the other party. But that’s obviously that’s not the case. I’ve thought for a while now that “Everyone is different. And they change rapidly”. Of course there are also a lot of people that don’t change. But I don’t think I’d want to work under a leader that didn’t understand that people will change.

I’d want to work under a boss that really understood me if I changed……If you were to ask me what kind of company I’d want to work at, I think I’d want it to be “A company where my boss really understood me well” or “A company where my boss really thought about my happiness”. That was my motivation for starting these meetings. They were a lot of work, but I realized that I gained a lot from them.

(Itoi) The first time around it must have been really difficult, right?

(Iwata) Yes. I was lost in thought during the first round, because I felt like I was gathering materials for my own decision-making. “Why do you think the company is the way it is?” “What things do you think you can’t do?” “What are our good points?” “What are you unsatisfied with?” I was asking a lot of these questions to people who I’d never asked them to before.

Then they’d tell me all kinds of things. I came to understand that that their feelings of trust in me strengthened me just from listening to them in these meetings. The more people I met with, the more things I came to understand. And from that I was able to see how I can rebuild the organization, in what way I should improve my management, what I can use to motivate people, and what demotivates them.