Learn From the President! Vol. 15 – I Want to Be a Central Player

(Iwata) I don’t think that groups that experienced success should innovate by denying reality. Those people always act in good faith, but because they’re successful they don’t’ gain any understanding or empathy through their denial of reality.

All innovation in the world tends to come from denial of reality, but I think a lot of people become unhappy as a result of that. After all, a lot of people achieved their current state with good intentions and sincere enthusiasm, right? I think denial of reality is fine when it comes to dishonesty, but as far as sincere output goes, there really can’t be any denial of reality involved.

I think it’s fine if things change in regards to Nintendo’s current environment. I don’t want those changes to come from denial of reality though, and I don’t think that they should. We’re changing many things, but we’re not changing them because we want to deny them.

“If I were alive a long time ago, I think Nintendo would have done things in the same manner as they have. But the environment would have been different, right? Our surroundings would have been different, right? What will happen if we don’t change? Will we be choosing to slowly go down the path to doom? Or will we be choosing a path that will make more people happy with our products in the future?”. That’s the kind of things I think about.

(Itoi) I see. Were these thoughts that came from your meeting conversations!?

(Iwata) If I hadn’t had those meetings, I don’t think I would have really understood that we can’t move forward by denying reality. I don’t think anything comes from a message like “Because I don’t think this fits with the world today, this should change”.

(Itoi) You want to say this because you can see that message very prominently now, right?

(Iwata) If left alone then the company will collapse, and the reason why we have to change is here before our very eyes……If we were in that sort of a situation then no one would be opposed, even if it was through denial of reality. Nintendo is of course not in the situation where it wants to make that denial.

I respect Mr. Yamauchi (the former president of Nintendo) very much, and I look at him with an amazing amount of respect, thinking “I don’t think I could possibly accomplish such an amazing thing in the same way”.

But on the other hand, because he entrusted this to me, there are a lot of thins that I have to do. A delicate hand is required to gain understanding and empathy. This is different from when I was the president of HAL Laboratory. I’ve inherited a good company in a good period……

(Itoi) That’s a very big difference. Yet in hearing this I really think that the logic behind your thoughts is interesting.

(Iwata) Even if it’s just a single part of putting these thoughts into practice, I think there’s definitely an element of “If I take this piece out, someone may be useful here”. Just like you were for me once, Mr. Itoi.

(Itoi) You didn’t run away after all, did you Mr. Iwata?

Answering what you were asked, or determining whether to refuse or leave behind what you were entrusted with. You didn’t run away from any of those individual problems. I feel that is the dish that you’re placing everything from today’s conversation on.

For example, if you didn’t place “yourself” on there, anyone could talk about this as much as they wanted. You can say anything about the mistakes made in the world, or about things that are fun. When you leave out the question of “What about your position on the matter?”, even if you’re not thinking about it at all, gossip can spread through conversation. And you only have one life to live……

But when you say that you’re going to try throwing yourself into something in some way, or are asked “What about you?”, I think that how much you answer with “myself” without running away is what decides the density of life. And I think that’s the kind of person you are, Mr. Iwata.

(Iwata) To express that in slightly different words, I definitely want to be a central player. I want to be a central player in all things, not a bystander.

But on the other hand, being a central player is not something you do for your own interests. Being of use to someone, making someone happy, or thinking that customers are happy are all great things, but they overlook the chance of being able to be a central player. I don’t like not being a central player by thinking things like “Things will go well if I get involved and I’ll be able to add something, but I won’t bother because things will get difficult for me”. Or perhaps I should say I’ve not lived my life that way.

And in not having lived my life that way, things have certainly been difficult. But a lot of interesting things have come of it. It’s the feeling of “I don’t want to have regrets, so I’ll use everything that I have the strength to”.

(Itoi) Even though people say “This failed because he did that” and compete to see who is more clever, they can still live in modern city though.

(Iwata) Yeah. But I don’t want to make those sorts of criticisms and judgments.

(Itoi) It’s the same thing as the fun you have while watching a news and entertainment show. That may just be another type of fun.

(Iwata) Well, since there’s no feeling of accomplishment without accepting any risk……then I wonder if it’s basically gambling.

(Itoi) Well, life itself is a gamble. Living things are created on a gamble.

(Iwata) Because genetic combination is a gamble, right?

(Itoi) I love the NHK series “The Evolution of Earth”, and that program is a discussion on how “losing is winning”. “The winners eliminated everything with change, but the losers secretly hid and the next era was theirs. Things went really well for them, but then change occurred and it didn’t go so well for them……” That’s the sort of process behind the evolution of the creatures of earth.

(Iwata) The experience of success is the inability to adapt to change, right?

(Itoi) Right. I think that is shown in the Christian religion with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. The losers will be the next winners, and their victory will already be over by that point……it’s connected to our conversation about trial and error after all, isn’t it?

Conversations with you are extremely interesting, and if I were collecting data for a business magazine article I’d want to hear something from Nintendo like “President Iwata spoke this way since he first came to Nintendo”. But I think I’d like to wrap things up without going into that sort of a theme.

I think all of your starting points came from your own brand of trial and error, and that we wouldn’t be able to have this conversation about Nintendo without the calculations of the amazing Mr. Yamauchi.

(Iwata) Yeah, that’s right. I’ve walked down a much different path from you Mr. Itoi, lived my life with much different values, and am a much different type of person. But we’ve had a strange resonance for some time now on all sorts of different things.

(Itoi) That’s true. Shall we look forward to seeing what that will result in from here?

(Iwata) Yes. Thank you very much, Mr. Itoi.

(Itoi) Mr. Iwata, thank you!