News & Highlights

  • OCTOBER 2017

HBS Professor Tsedal Neely's New Book on Rakuten's Language Practices

Tsedal Neely, associate professor in the Organizational Behavior unit, discusses corporate language strategies and their importance for globalization in her new book "The Language of Global Succes: How a Common Tongue Transforms Multinational Organizations." Neely gives an in-depth look at the Japanese company, Rakuten, and how the firm navigates its English lingua franca mandate over a period of five years.
  • APRIL 2017

Professor Ethan Bernstein in Tokyo

Assistant Professor of Business Administration and Berol Corporation Fellow, Ethan Bernstein, studies the impact of workplace transparency on productivity, with implications for leadership, collaboration, organization design, and new forms of organizing. In April, he traveled to Tokyo to present his recent research on "digitizing leadership" to a group of 30+ alumni from the region. He also connected his research to a new Immersive Field Course HBS is offering to EC students in the coming academic year - "Japan; Innovation through the Fusion of Digital and Analog," being co-taught by Bernstein and Professor Management Practice, Hirotaka Takeuchi.
  • March 2017

Japan IFC 2017: What 43 HBS Students Learned From Entrepreneurs in Tohoku

The Japan IFC (Immersive Field Course), an HBS MBA elective course taught by Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi, was completed with another huge success in January 2017. The program started as a response to the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 and has been offered for the six consecutive years. This year, the program was held under the theme of “Tohoku: The World’s Test Market for Authentic Entrepreneurship” from January 4 to January 13.

New Research on the Region

  • September 2017
  • Case

Sensing (and Monetizing) Happiness at Hitachi

By: Ethan Bernstein and Stephanie Marton

Inspired by research linking happiness and productivity, Hitachi had invested in developing new “people analytics” technologies to help companies increase employee happiness. Hitachi had begun manufacturing high-tech badges that quantify a wearer’s activity patterns. Data from these devices revealed an unusually high correlation between certain patterns of activity and a person’s subjective sense of happiness at work. Unlike mood rings or even facial expressions, both of which were highly unreliable, Dr. Kazuo Yano—the mastermind responsible for bringing "happiness sensors" to market—believed he now had the ability to accurately sense happiness. When combined with other sources of data like Outlook calendars or email, Dr. Yano’s team could pinpoint with scientific precision which activities, events, or even people generated the most happiness in employees at work. With a firm proof of concept in hand, Dr. Yano was ready to push the business model further. He was rolling out an app to provide personalized "happiness" recommendations to employees, and he was considering other ways to automate the model to bring it to scale. He was confident that the new technology had the power to transform employee happiness and the productivity of workforces, in Japan and beyond, if he could only find the right business model to launch such a happiness movement.

  • September 2017
  • Case

Dr. William Carson — Intrapreneurial Innovation in the Pharmaceutical Industry

By: Steven Rogers and Alyssa Haywoode

Dr. William Carson is an African-American psychiatrist who grew up in South Carolina. He had a thriving career in academic medicine as a professor and he also treated patients. After a decade in academic medicine he moved into the pharmaceutical industry where he ran drug trials. As the Group Director of Bristol-Myers Squibb, Carson worked on the drug Aripiprazole, an antipsychotic drug that is more famously known as Abilify. Abilify had been developed by Otsuka, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, and it was being co-marketed in the United States by Otsuka and Bristol Myers-Squibb. After a series of “Appleby’s” conversations held during dinner meetings with a colleague from Otsuka at Appleby’s restaurant, Carson was invited to join Otsuka’s fledgling Princeton, N.J., office. Carson was then asked to take on the considerable task of running clinical trials for Abilify in Japan. The project would require a deft cultural touch as well as a plan for how to run the trials. Should the trials be run in-house or outsourced? Should Carson hire employees who might eventually be laid off – an unpopular option in Japan – or could he find a company with enough cultural sensitivity to run the trials in Asia? Carson would have to rely on his intrapreneurial skills to find the answers.

  • 2017
  • Book

The Language of Global Success: How a Common Tongue Transforms Multinational Organizations

For nearly three decades, English has been the lingua franca of cross-border organizations, yet studies on corporate language strategies and their importance for globalization have been scarce. In The Language of Global Success, Tsedal Neeley provides an in-depth look at a single organization—the high-tech giant Rakuten—in the five years following its English lingua franca mandate. Neeley’s behind-the-scenes portrayal explores how language shapes the ways in which employees who work in global organizations communicate and negotiate linguistic and cultural differences. Bringing together 650 interviews conducted across Rakuten’s locations in Brazil, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States, Neeley argues that an organization’s lingua franca is the catalyst by which all employees become some kind of “expat”(someone detached from their mother tongue or home culture). Through her unfettered access to the inner workings of Rakuten, she reveals three distinct social groups: “linguistic expats” who live in their home country yet have to give up their native language in the workplace; “cultural expats” or native speakers of the lingua franca who struggle with organizational values that are more easily transmitted after language barriers are removed; and finally “linguistic-cultural expats” who, while neither native to the lingua franca nor the organization’s home culture, surprisingly have the easiest time adjusting to language changes. Neeley demonstrates that language can serve as the conduit for an unfamiliar culture, often in unexpected ways, and that there are lessons to be learned for all global companies as they confront language and culture challenges. Examining the strategic use of language by one international corporation, The Language of Global Success uncovers how all organizations might integrate language effectively to tap into the promise of globalization.

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Tokyo Staff

Nobuo Sato
Executive Director
Akiko Kanno
Senior Researcher
Yukari Takizawa
Staff Assistant
Naoko Jinjo
Senior Researcher