Learn From the President! Vol. 13 – The True Nature of Trial and Error

(Itoi) Mr. Iwata, I hear rumors that you’ve now brought back the interviews that you did back at HAL Laboratory, at Nintendo? (Laughs)

(Iwata) (Laughs) Yes I have.

(Itoi) Surely you aren’t able to meet with everyone.

(Iwata) Because we currently have over 300 employees, of course that’s not possible.

(Itoi) It’s impossible, right?

(Iwata) In deciding to change up the format of the staff reviews, that means that I want to understand them better. So this time it isn’t “Are you happy?”, but rather “What did you learn in college? Why did you think you’d like to work for Nintendo? What have you done since you joined? What’s fun to do and what’s difficult?” that I’ve asked to all of my direct reports, as well as those around them.

(Itoi) You’ve asked about everyone’s histories this time around. How many people did you do this with?

(Iwata) About 150 people total. I interviewed about 40 in total recently.

(Itoi) (Laughs) That’s a lot more than you had back at HAL! I remember very clearly the things you’ve taught me Mr. Iwata, but previously you said “I’ve learned two things from doing this for many years: Knowing what you’re good and not good at, and running at full speed toward the things you are good at”……

(Iwata) When it comes to management, that’s how I’d condense it down into one statement.

(Itoi) Intending to do it is easy, but actually doing it is more difficult.

(Iwata) Yeah. If you’re even a little bit conscious of that philosophy, its range of use will grow really large. But as you grow more unaware of it, you miss chances to use it.

(Itoi) Even just searching for something that you’re good at actually takes a lot of effort, doesn’t it? Like how as soon as I stopped thinking of myself as a good man, I got good at playing guitar.

(Iwata) (Laughs)

(Itoi) I think that if you yourself are flawed, as you’re sitting there thinking “I’ll give call them in, hehehe…”, finding your edge is a very harsh thing indeed.

(Iwata) That’s true.

(Itoi) There are more people at the top of the business world that have no edge, or perhaps they’ve simply lost it. There are those who say “People don’t like repeating things very much”……But I don’t think it makes for a very easy decision when you think that way. But deciding on things is a necessary foundation for everything else. And what’s more, people change right away and everyone thinks differently……That’s what having these meetings every 6 months is.

(Iwata) Right. People and environments both change, and it’s not over as soon as you’ve met with someone just one time.

(Itoi) You’ve helped me with a lot of computer related things Mr. Iwata, but the biggest one for me was when you said “The evolution of computers happens so quickly because of the overwhelming amount of trial and error”.

(Iwata) We were talking about the differences between hardware and software, right? When it comes to fixing the hardware mold, even testing it takes a lot of time. But you can try testing “how high can Mario jump” several times in a single day.

(Itoi) It may not have been a big conversation for you Mr. Iwata, but I’ve been able to look at the world through different eyes since I heard that.

(Iwata) I see, my perspective has expanded.

(Itoi) When I heard you explain the reason behind the evolution of computer software, I was able to get a new perspective on the meaning of “testing” and “failing”. After hearing that, I really began to understand the importance of “testing”, even in my own way while working.

I was able to setup a business in such a way that I was able to clearly state “My objective won’t be to make money”. People have successes that no one else knows about, and there are things that seem like successes but are actually failures……those words were the thing that allowed me to see this. Do you know what I mean?

(Iwata) I understand, it’s all connected.

It’s interesting that me telling you that expanded your thoughts into places I never would have guessed they’d go. I was only being truthful about the reason computers had developed, but you got a different kind of inspiration from that and connected it to something different in your head.

(Itoi) “Success” isn’t a part of “trial and error”, right?

(Iwata) Right.

(Itoi) “Success” is one type of paradise or Utopia, so reality is basically trial and error.

(Iwata) There’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to reality. There’s just repetition and thinking “Ahh, that time it was better”.

(Itoi) It’s okay to find something in moving forward. On the other hand, even if you work while finding nothing in moving forward and think that there’s no meaning in it, you can still talk about the quality and bounty of your work. Can’t you talk about the fun you have with it?

Another big thing I learned from you about computers is by connecting even a bunch of cheap and tiny computers, a test that otherwise couldn’t be completed in a million years will take only the blink of an eye. In retrospect that surprised me so much more than if I’d heard that we’d be able to do something amazing in the blink of an eye by connecting all of the computers in the world.

In other words, it’s connected to the fundamental building blocks of Hobonichi, “there are a lot of people” and “there are a lot of things happening” being the most valuable. I forget exactly when I heard that from you……it was probably when you were in the middle of making a game. While you were eating a pork tenderloin cutlet meal set.

(Iwata) There’s also the idea that if you increase the number of processors running in parallel, it will reduce the time to completion……There are jobs where a lot can be neatly divided up and done in parallel, and jobs where things can’t be so neatly divided up.

With jobs that can be neatly divided up, you can do a lot with parallel processing. For example, you can create something like a weather simulation. If it’s complex but can be broken up into elements, you can process at high speeds when calculations are done by separate processors.

However in the types of jobs where this thing influences that thing, and that thing has influence back on this thing, that isn’t really possible. That’s why there are jobs that can and can’t be done with this method, this is another idea that falls in with that one.

(Itoi) (Laughs) You’ve said something great again! In other words, the true form of a computer is the “super calculator”. It’s nothing more and nothing less.

(Iwata) Yeah.