Immersive Field Course: Japan; Innovation through the Fusion of Digital and Analog - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Immersive Field Course: Japan; Innovation through the Fusion of Digital and Analog

Course Number 6062

Professor of Management Practice Hirotaka Takeuchi
Four on-campus sessions on Wednesdays from 5:45 pm - 7:15 pm on September 11, October 2, November 6, December 4, 2019
Travel Dates: Arrival on Monday, January 6, Departure on Friday, January 17, 2020
Program fee & travel costs: See details on Course Credit and Fees
Credits: 3.0
Enrollment: 45

Career Focus

Through first-hand exposure to entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial leaders who are transforming the Japanese business landscape, students in this course will deepen their understanding of strategy, innovation, and leadership in organizations operating in an increasingly digital world. Set in Japan, this course will appeal to students who wish to acquire an understanding of alternative leadership styles and business models aimed at simultaneously creating economic and societal value in a rapidly changing world. The course, which will adopt a general management perspective, aims to expose students to individuals who seem uniquely capable - in a uniquely Japanese way - of bridging the past and the future to be great leaders in the present.

Educational Objectives

Japan is a world leader in fostering businesses built to fuse the digital and analog worlds. From robotics to technological art, from big data to nano-devices, "only in Japan" has become emblematic of hotels run solely by robots, zero-emission houses, advanced materials made of spider web, and other endeavors that would, but for their growing success, seem crazy. The course will bring students in direct contact with an eclectic mix of leading-edge organizations and business models in service of four learning objectives. First, it will enable students to gain first-hand experiences and insights into the unique complexities of shifting from "Knowing to Doing to Being" in an increasingly digital workplace and marketplace. Second, it will enable students to realize that innovation - both in products/services and in leadership/organizing - can be brought about by a dialectic process of combining what appears to be contradictory or paradoxical (e.g., the digital world and the analog world, the new with the old, techne or "know-how" with phronesis or "know-what-should-be-done," big data with a human touch, etc.). Third, building on relevant RC and EC course lessons, it will foster a refined appreciation for the challenges (and opportunities) of digitally-enabled leadership in a world in which human beings are still an organization's customers, employees, and owners. Fourth, it will expose students to social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who have developed innovations with a higher purpose - to advance humanity, or to do good for society.

Course Content and Organization

Overview and Introduction: Students enrolled in the Japan Tokyo lmmersive Field Course will work in small teams to undertake a project with an organization led by an entrepreneur or intrapreneur based in Tokyo. The course will meet for four on-campus sessions to (1) provide students with a basic understanding of the leadership qualities that foster economic and societal value in entrepreneurial settings, (2) highlight some of the challenges and opportunities facing these entrepreneurs, especially after the immense devastation that took place with the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Tohoku, (3) discuss how some of these emerging, digital business models lend themselves to new forms of organizing and leadership, and (4) allow time for student teams to work together, engage with their project partners as well as the HBS Japan Research Center (JRC) in Tokyo to define and scope projects that will take place in January, and prepare for travel.

Projects: Students will assemble into small teams based on interests to work on projects throughout the course. Project partners will, first of all, submit a two-page description of their businesses as well as "digital+ analog" issues they want the students to address by the second session at HBS. Second, students will form teams and choose the project of their choice by the third session at HBS. Third, project teams will request/receive more information from the project partners and conduct telephone interviews, if necessary, before the last on-campus session with the help of the JRC, which will also facilitate finding a student translator (aka a local team member) for each team. Fourth, project teams will visit their project partners in Tokyo and vicinity during the second week of January and learn about the innovation that each project partner has developed, conduct interviews on the issues being faced, assess the market/organizational environment being faced by talking to customers, suppliers, government officials, and even competitors. Project teams will continue to conduct interviews, pull together their data, analyze their findings, and develop recommendations up until the middle of the third week of January.

Deliverables: Student teams will present their recommendations to the project partners sometime in the third week of January. In addition, each student will present his or her personal take-away on an individual basis at the Capstone event on Thursday, January 16 afternoon. The audience for the Capstone will consist of project partners, JRC staff members, local team members, HBS alumni, media, and others. Finally, project teams will submit their final report by Monday February 3. Final grades will take into account participation during class sessions in the Fall semester and on-site activities in Tokyo and Tohoku, feedback from partner organizations and peers on project work, as well as the final report.

Tours: Students will have the opportunity to take part in company visits as well as various cultural activities in Tokyo and the Tohoku region throughout their 10-day stay. Students will come to appreciate unique business protocols practiced in Japanese companies - e.g., exchange of name cards, silence in elevators, socializing after work, etc. - that may contribute to Japan's unique approach to the fusion of digital+ analog. They will also realize why the Japanese live long (diet, hot spring, drink-along and singĀ­ along or karaoke, etc.) and why Japanese companies are long-living (more than 600 companies over 300 years old).

Accommodations and Activities: Students will experience three different types of accommodations. In Tokyo (where the majority of overnights will take place), students will stay at a modern downtown hotel near Ginza (similar to Fifth Avenue in New York City). During an excursion to the Tohoku region, students will stay at (a) a traditional Japanese ryokan, where they will soak in public, hot spring baths and eat dinner wearing a kimono, as well as (b) a nature school or other non traditional accommodations unique to the post-disaster Tohoku region. The nature school includes dormitory-style bunk-bed accommodations and open-air bathing. Please note that students will engage in volunteer work during their stay in Tohoku, including physical labor (e.g., collecting wood, removing rocks, or cleaning shells), mentoring of high-schools students, and advising a mayor as well as local entrepreneurs /NPOs. In Tokyo, students will try to understand the roots of the "digital+ analog" culture by visiting a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple, Akihabara (electronics center and home of geeky cafes), department store basement (depa-chika), etc. as well as by experiencing sushi-making and watching a humanoid-robot live performance as well as a sumo wrestler live practice.



The Immersive Field Course Model

Immersive Field Courses are designed to offer second-year students an off-campus, experiential learning opportunity during the January term. A cornerstone of these courses is the expertise of faculty, who develop course content focused on teaching objectives that are met primarily through student-centered active learning opportunities including project work, site visits and participating in discussions with key contacts. As such, these courses provide students with an opportunity to apply first-hand the knowledge and skills gained from their on-campus MBA coursework in an off-campus setting.

Due to the nature of Immersive Field Courses students may be required to sign legal agreements requested by project partner organizations. Additional requirements and documentation may also be requested of students by organizations.

Course Credit and Fees

Students who successfully complete this course (including required participation in all on-campus sessions during the Fall and Spring terms) will earn 3.0 course credits.

HBS will provide logistical support for this course (including hotel accommodations, select meals, and local on-site travel arrangements). Students will be charged a course fee of $3,500 towards defraying a portion of these costs. Students who have an existing financial aid application on file may apply for additional financial support to participate in this course. Please see the Financial Aid website (login required) for more information on financial support for Immersive Field Courses.

For detailed information about what the course program fee includes and excludes, as well as information about student accommodations, please visit the GEO website.