Learn From the President! Vol. 14 – What Are the Things That Only You Can Do?

(Iwata) There are things that computers can and can’t do. But in this world, they’re rather hard to distinguish in conversation.

(Itoi) That’s right. In sports theory for example, there are things that depend on the player, but as a rule the scope is rather narrow in regards to things that you can definitively say “Of course doing things this way is good” about.

(Iwata) That’s true of everything. The most confined area called a “bottleneck” is created, and that’s what determines the whole. On the other hand, if you want to do something about the whole, you have to find the bottleneck and fix things there. No matter how much you fix the bigger areas, the whole won’t change.

People often tend to feel relieved by some kind of hand gesture and unintentionally sweating over the things in front of them before finding that though. The idea is connected to something I said earlier about strengths and weaknesses. Action should be taken by first understanding what the things are that only you can do.

Well even taking that into account, action is nothing more than a hypothesis after all. Even though you need to take action in at least a way that says “The bottleneck should be here, so if I change this then the whole should be better for it”, and even though you may be wrong, that’s an almost impossible thing to do. I’ve become well aware of this. That’s one thing I’ve gotten good at from using computers.

When someone says “Please program faster”, there’s definitely a bottleneck somewhere. That’s what’s slowing down the whole. In programming you’ll often hear things like “To put it reasonably, _% of the whole is consuming 70 to 80 percent of the entire processing time”. It’s possible that that part is being processed over and over again. But as long as you don’t fix the bottleneck, there’s no meaning in fixing anything else.

(Itoi) For example, because you hit the space and enter keys on a keyboard so much, it’s like making those parts are hit the most durable so that they won’t break, right? Aren’t the letters on your keyboard worn off?

(Iwata) They’re definitely worn off. I hit them very hard after all (Laughs)

(Itoi) You’ve got to hit them hard, right?

(Iwata) I’m showing my impatient personality, aren’t I?

(Itoi) Old habits die hard, right? Out of all the times you’ve said “There’s one more thing…”, I think there are quite a few hints in what you said just now. In saying “There are things that can and can’t be divided up”, that’s a hint regarding your job……

(Iwata) There are actually a lot of similarities between the world of computers and the world of working with others, and there are a lot of things that I’ve come to understand because of finding these similarities. I feel that has been incredibly useful to my decision making and in finding clues to to solve the problem of how to divide up complex tasks.

(Itoi) People don’t have as many similar points as computers do. For example, the trait of “heading straight toward what interests you” isn’t common among everyone.

(Iwata) It’s not. There are people whose own interests are important to them, there are people who don’t’ care at all about their own interests, and there are people who care about their own interests but have other things that are important to them as well. There are all sorts.

(Itoi) There are even people who get angry at showing one’s own interests too much……

(Iwata) (Laughs) There are.

(Itoi) And this stuff all kind of meshes together. There are times when things are easier to explain well when there’s uniform understanding involved on both sides, like when you’re talking about amoeba ecology or something. So arguments like “Everyone should seek their own interests, so management should be done this way” or “Marketing should be done this way” are often brandished about.

But of course there are those that say things like “The big holes left in the market by Ajinomoto are incredibly useful”. And there are those who say things like “Leave your good fortune next to the cash register”……

(Iwata) You don’t solve big problems that way, do you? Regarding leaving your good fortune next to the cash register,  someone did that and things worked out well for them, and I think the actual reason for it comes later.

(Itoi) That’s true. But at a glance you’ll think “Human actions are easy to understand on paper”. And managers will say “If we do this, things will turn out this way!”, and when they succeed it’s easy to understand why they tend to think it’s so amazing.

(Iwata) It gets easier to think about as you simplify the modeling behind it, so there’s a certain allure to simplistic modeling. But managing people with a simplified model is a mistake. It makes me want to preach like “You want things to modeled that simply?!” (Laughs)

I think it’s a very dangerous thing if you don’t look consider things like how customers should view our company in order to like it, or how can we get customers talking positively about our company.

(Itoi) If you focus on fun like Nintendo does, that becomes more and more important, doesn’t it Have you been thinking about that recently, Mr. Iwata? I’m guessing that you probably recognize that there are some big changes occurring that can’t be captured in modeling……

(Iwata) Yeah……A period of slow change in the world has been occurring for a long time now. The same trends and ways of thinking have been used over the last several years, and since they’ve repeatedly succeeded the groups who experienced that success have continually used them.

Groups that experience that success are afraid of change. But what I’m currently really aware of is that circumstances are drastically changing, people’s ways of thinking are drastically changing, customers are drastically changing, and methods of conveying information are drastically changing.

Therefore not only me, but people throughout the company are raising the question “Are the ways that are deemed to be good really the correct ones?”, and I think that we have to handle it with sensitivity toward these changing circumstances. Customer needs will change, marketing environments will change, ways of conveying information will change, the content that people think they want will change, the people who actually buy the products will change, and the places where products are sold will change.