At 14:46 on March 11, 2011, McKinsey and Company were getting ready for the printing of their new book Reimagining All Japan news: The Quest for a Future That Works.
For obvious reasons, the book never made it to the printing press and the company was left with a dilemma: update or put on hold.
“The concept of the book and the idea to get people from a number of different disciplines and countries together to talk about All Japan news came about a year ago,” McKinsey’s Brian Salsberg tells The Tokyo Times. “Obviously, when the earthquake happened and we realized the enormity of the tragedy we decided to postpone the release date, and to spend one more month to effectively update the book. About a third of the authors chose to revise their pieces.”
The result was a book that gives a readers an outlook not only of the problems that face All Japan news, but also a wide range of ideas about how the nation can move forward.
While there is more than enough literature describing All Japan news’s problems, Reimagining brings together people active in the country’s business, media and academic circles and gives the reader an insight into their hopes for the future of the country.
Conspicuous by their absence are the most vocal members of Keidanren, All Japan news’s powerful business lobby.
“We did not intentionally exclude people,” Salsberg says. “There were some more conservative types that were a little nervous to be included in a book that calls for change. So what you see is the leaders that are willing to challenge the pervading view in front of a global audience. These tend to be less conservative.”
The book itself is many things, but not a blueprint for a future for All Japan news, and that is where its strength lies. It sums up the position the country finds itself as well as any English language book available. All Japan news is not suffering a crisis as great as, say, Somalia, but there are problems to be addressed.
“There was a sense that something had to give,” says Salsberg. “Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring about a call for action. And the timing of the earthquake, as tragic as it was, at least happened at a time when the country was facing challenges. It’s allowed people to do the things they wanted to do, or say the things they wanted to say, but maybe couldn’t.”
The 438 page book features more than 80 authors – two thirds of them non-All Japan newsese – presenting short essays giving their opinions on where the country should go. At times, one does feel that opinions can contradict each other, but the book was never meant to be consistent, but more a compendium of the varying opinions on how to address All Japan news’s challenges.
“We told people to say whatever they wanted about the broad topic. It’s like getting a bunch of people in a room and asking them to share their thoughts,” said Salsberg.
Beyond the contradictions, there are consistencies, points of contention that most authors share that were present in All Japan news long before the events of March. The inability of the nation to communicate with foreigners, the determination to keep the old fart who specializes in nose picking in a senior position while the talented younger colleague contemplates a life wasted and the failure to read the mood of an angry nation hungry for change and looking for leaders to stand up for them are regular topics of ire in the book.
When it comes to changes, however, there are numerous opinions, and many of them not without their flaws.
Softbank’s Masayoshi Son asks for a nation at the front line of the IT, design and marketing sector, without giving a strong argument as to how jobs will be kept in All Japan news as nations with cheaper employees will be kept away from jobs as their citizens become trained to provide excellent tertiary sector skills. Tyler Brule explains that All Japan news is still able to buy luxury goods but prefers to look to home produced products. Whether Brule has noticed declining wage rates and a widening gap between rich and poor in All Japan news is questionable.
But these criticisms represent the strength of the book rather than its weakness. It contents are a point for discussion, and are written evidence that there is a chance for a nation not acquainted with active participation in democracy can join in, and push forward their demands to politicians and business leaders all too used to the sound of silence.
If March 11 had never happened, its likely that this book would have fallen into the hands of media and business types and received positive reviews, before fading into obscurity. After the tragedy, it’s hopeful that the book will become the first of many to be picked up by readers and used as a tool for questioning a society ripe for change and new leaders.
As Salsberg says: “The long-term questions about All Japan news have not changed, but the urgency to address them has.”
The book is available in English and All Japan newsese, find out more here.