News & Highlights

  • JANUARY 2020

The Global Classroom: Student Immersion in Japan

As part of the elective curriculum within the MBA program, students have the opportunity in their second year to enroll in an Immersive Field Course – or “IFC.” These courses are driven by faculty research and industry connections, and provide students with an opportunity to get out of the classroom and put the skills they have learned to practice in the field. Typically, about 200 students participate in IFCs annually. In January 2020, Professor Hiro Takeuchi from the School’s Strategy Unit led 42 students to Japan for 10 days where they visited Tokyo and the Tohoku region. During their stay in Japan, students were involved in three types of activities: 1) team-based consulting projects for companies in Tokyo; 2) group activities to learn about and contribute to the disaster-affected areas in the Tohoku region; and 3) immersive experiences in traditional and modern Japanese culture.
  • DECEMBER 2019

Case Discussion Session with Professor Scott Kominers

On December 16, the HBS Japan Research Center welcomed Professor Scott Duke Kominers from the Entrepreneurial Management Unit to Tokyo and organized a case discussion session in collaboration with Academyhills. Professor Kominers taught his Raksul case that he wrote with the support of the Japan Research Center. Raksul, 2018 Forbes Japan "Startup of the Year," ran an e-commerce platform drawing upon thousands of individual suppliers. Launched as a business-to-business printing services marketplace, Raksul had recently expanded to operate both a logistics/delivery marketplace and a television advertising marketplace. In the case, each marketplace faces its own growth challenges; at the same time, the CEO must consider whether and how each marketplace can enhance the others. 40 people including HBS alumni joined the session and enjoyed a taste of the HBS-style case discussion.
  • AUGUST 2019
  • Working Knowledge

Cold Call Podcast: Should a Pension Fund Try to Change the World?

Professors Rebecca Henderson and George Serafeim discuss the impact investing efforts of Hiro Mizuno, CIO of GPIF, Japan’s government pension fund. Mizuno says that improving corporate governance, increasing inclusion and gender diversity, and addressing climate change could expand Japan’s economy. But, should a pension fund try to change the world?
  • JULY 2019

Innovating through Experimentation with Professor Stefan Thomke

The Japan Research Center, in collaboration with HBS Executive Education, welcomed Professor Stefan Thomke, Chair of the General Management Program, to Tokyo this July. Professor Thomke led an interactive discussion that focused on why some companies are more innovative than others. The talk encouraged the 100 alumni and friends of the School in attendance to think about factors that limit companies from stepping beyond traditional product and service offerings. Professor Thomke shared why business experimentation is critical to innovation management, how new technologies impact products, processes, and business models, and steps for successfully integrating new innovation strategies and technologies.

New Research on the Region

  • May 2020
  • Teaching Material

Shiseido: Reinvesting in Brand

Shiseido was in the midst of a six year corporate turnaround, trying to reverse the effects of decades of under-investment in R&D and marketing that had led to a vicious cycle of declining customer support and brand value. Would the CEO’s VISION 2020 plan, centered on four strategies: 1.) increasing R&D spending from 1.8% to 3% of sales, 2.) investing an incremental ¥120 billion in brand-building marketing, 3.) moving to a “think global-act local” matrixed brand management structure, and 4.) rethinking brand portfolio strategy, be enough to achieve aggressive 8% per year sales goals while simultaneously increasing the company’s operating margin from 8% to 10% in the highly competitive and slow growing beauty industry?

  • April 2020 (Revised April 2020)
  • Case

Oriental Land Co., Ltd. – Tokyo Disney Resort

By: Ramon Casadesus-Masanell and Akiko Kanno

This case describes the history of Oriental Land Co. Ltd.’s (OLC's) Tokyo Disney Resort (TDR), its operations, the extent of vertical integration, and the challenges it faced in 2018, as OLC's chairman and CEO, Toshio Kagami, contemplated how best to deal with congestion in the park. As of 2018, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, the two parks that comprised TDR, were the only Disney parks not owned and operated by Disney. Instead, OLC paid royalties to Disney based on the parks’ revenue (in yen). The parks were immensely popular, but OLC had begun to see lower customer satisfaction ratings in recent years as high attendance led to long wait times. Although it continuously added new attractions to TDR, the company now faced a dilemma regarding how to expand further, given the limited land available around the parks. Kagami also considered whether to focus on OLC's other businesses, such as hotels, and even its nascent agriculture business, which it used to grow food served in the two parks.

  • March 2020
  • Case

Social Salary Setting at Spiber

Can a “set your own salary” system boost employee happiness and motivation? Spiber made synthetic silk built from proteins mimicking the proteins found in spider silk, the world’s toughest known material by weight. Kazuhide Sekiyama and Junichi Sugahara established Spiber to create protein materials that would eventually compete effectively with petrochemical-based materials widely used in apparel, auto parts, and airplane components, among many other applications. From the beginning, they envisioned a team built on mutual respect and a common purpose. The executive team wanted the company’s compensation system to match the organization’s values. Thus, the company had implemented a unique salary-setting process designed to inspire autonomy and responsibility among employees: each employee retained the ultimate authority to choose his or her own salary. The members of the executive team were excited about the “set your own salary” system, but was it having the intended effect?

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Tokyo Staff

Nobuo Sato
Executive Director
Akiko Kanno
Assistant Director
Akiko Saito
Senior Researcher
Yukari Takizawa
Office Manager