Click here for "【Part 1】 15 Years of Hitachi’s Internal Employee Network"
Click here for "【Part 2】 The Logic of Transforming an Organization"
Click here for "【Part 3】 Making a Fresh Start from Stagnation"
Click here for "【Part 4】 Challenging the Pandemic by DX of Innovation"
Click here for "【Part 5】 Secret behind the Longevity of Team Sunrise"
Click here for "【Part 6】 Drivers of Innovation"
Click here for "【Part 7】 The Man Who Brought the US Bestseller “The Human Element” to Japan"
Click here for "【Part 8】 Global Mindset and English"
Click here for "【Part 9】 Organization Where Innovation Occurs from the Bottom Up"
Invisible Force of Gravity That Crushes Budding Innovation
Kenichi Funaki of Hitachi, Ltd. joined Team Sunrise early in its inception. He established his career as a researcher in production technology when he joined Hitachi in 1993, working on up to 15 reform projects that aimed to enhance production control and streamline processes using cutting-edge technologies. Through his involvement in various organizations within and outside Hitachi, he became aware of a fundamental issue.
"I've witnessed many individuals fiercely opposing new techniques and technologies. Despite my earnest efforts to demonstrate the value of my ideas, success wasn't guaranteed. This resistance is not limited to Hitachi; it's a broader issue, even in our daily lives. While some embrace new digital technologies, others are cautious or resistant to change. I came to the conclusion that resistance to the new isn't solely a problem within Hitachi but may be pervasive throughout Japan."
Funaki currently serves as the General Manager of the Corporate Venturing Office in the Innovation Growth Strategy Division. He oversees Hitachi's investments in promising startups that offer solutions to societal challenges through innovative services. By merging their ideas, technologies, and service models with Hitachi's existing operations, the company can develop new ventures and deliver fresh value to its customers.
"Even if it's a technology created by world-renowned innovators, it's not guaranteed that Hitachi or the customers will readily accept it. Resistance is still a factor. Typically, there's some degree of resistance. I long pondered how we could overcome this resistance until I came across 'The Human Element,' the bestselling book co-authored by Prof. David Schonthal."
The Journey to Publish "The Human Element" in Japanese
In October 2021, "The Human Element" made consecutive appearances on the Wall Street Journal's Best Sellers list and generated buzz on social media. Funaki learned about the book during a business trip to the US and couldn't put it down on his return flight to Japan.
"The more you push your brilliant ideas onto stakeholders, the more friction it generates. You need to stand alongside your counterparts and understand the source of their resistance," he realized through the book.
Funaki felt an urge to introduce this book to Japan and immediately sent an email to Prof. Schonthal whose email address he found on the university website.
Funaki promptly gained willing consent from Prof. Schonthal for Japanese translation and received contact information for the US publisher. However, the journey from that point was quite convoluted. Few Japanese publishers readily accept translation proposals from unknown individuals. Funaki reached out to Soshisha, one of the rare publishers that considered his idea.
Luckily, Soshisha embraced Funaki's proposition. Typically, industry practices require an intermediary to connect Japanese and US publishers for translation projects. In this case, Soshisha, without any competitors in Japan for the copyright of The Human Element's translation, secured the contract with the original publisher. It took several months to find a translator and complete the book's translation. Subsequently, Funaki invested additional months in editing the translation. By the time all these tasks were complete for the publication of the Japanese translation, a year and a half had passed since Funaki's initial contact with Prof. Schonthal.
The Arena for "Collective Intelligence" Generation
In April 2023, two months after the Japanese translation's release, Funaki proposed the idea of a talk event featuring Prof. Schonthal to Sato, Head of Team Sunrise. Funaki emphasized the event's timing for a reason. Funaki explained, "Prof. Schonthal has shown a keen interest in Japanese business and expressed a desire to convey the essence of 'The Human Element' to Japanese business professionals, especially those facing challenges in developing new businesses within their companies. I was eager to fulfill his wish promptly."
On the day of the talk event featuring David Schonthal on June 23, numerous business professionals from both inside and outside Hitachi crowded the venue, including those involved in innovation at IT companies and manufacturers. "These are precisely the people I hoped would read this book," says Funaki.
"However, what's truly crucial is their actions afterword," Funaki emphasizes. "They might fully agree with what they hear during the event, but when they return home, applying what they found inspiring to their work or daily lives is often a challenge. Prof. Schonthal's book offers numerous 'how-to-think' insights, not just 'how-to-do' instructions. It takes practice and continuous training to effectively apply what they've learned to their work. In fact, I'm currently planning a training program for Hitachi employees to leverage this book in their work."
While Funaki's involvement with Team Sunrise has decreased since assuming the role of General Manager of the CV Office, he occasionally encourages his colleagues to join the Team.
"We are at a pivotal moment in history in many ways. Take the technology field, for example. A few years ago, it was Web3 and the metaverse. Now, it's generative AI. New technologies continue to emerge one after another. As individuals, we, too, generate various ideas daily. When we encounter societal challenges, we can overcome them by contributing our ideas and starting new businesses. New movements occur when people with common aspirations join forces, regardless of their affiliations. I hold high hopes for Team Sunrise to become a platform that continually fosters collective intelligence for such new movements."
In the next installment, we'll share our interview with Tatsuya Goke, who volunteered as an interpreter during this event as one of the supporters.
General Manager of the Corporate Venturing Office in the Innovation Growth Strategy Division, Hitachi, Ltd.
Vice President of Japan Industrial management Association
Doctor of engineering (2001)
Since joining Hitachi in 1993, Dr. Funaki has been involved in 15 reform projects, introducing new systems and process innovations across various sectors, including industrial machinery, information technology, electronic components, consumer goods, and apparel industries. Recently, he has been championing collaboration with startups, aiming to promote open innovation in research and business development. He firmly believes that the pivotal element in driving both reform and open innovation lies in people's willingness to embrace change.
Funaki also took on the role of the editorial translator for the Japanese version of "The Human Element" published in 2023 by Soshisha Publishing, Co., Ltd. Furthermore, he has served as a visiting researcher, contributed articles to numerous journals, delivered lectures, and received accolades in the field of industrial management.