Leaders February 2017

Constant progress

The benefits of feedback

I was delighted to welcome almost 100 British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) members and guests to last month’s event with the new UK Ambassador to Japan, Paul Madden CMG FRGS. This was not only a valuable opportunity to gain first-hand insight into the UK–Japan relationship, but also a chance for members to expand their personal networks.

From my own perspective, I am pleased to say that the event yielded two pieces of feedback. One helped me understand how I can do better, and the other enabled me to validate an existing approach. Both were helpful, specific and gratefully received. Delivered in a spirit of constructive support, they were a timely reminder of the way in which feedback should be provided.

The giving and receiving of advice, as criticism or as praise, is key to the process of continuous improvement. It helps ensure that, from time to time, we disengage ourselves from autopilot to critically consider whether we need to recalibrate the way we work and deal with people. At the BCCJ, we welcome feedback from our members and encourage them to contribute their ideas for improving the business environment here in Japan.

At a time when the administration of Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is prioritising efforts to restore the capital’s financial and economic competitiveness, so that these aspects might be commensurate with its world-city status, those of us who live and work in this great metropolis have an obligation to contribute our ideas. In that respect, I am delighted that there have been some lively table debates at recent BCCJ events that were not restricted to formal questions and answers with our headline speakers.

The phenomenon is being encouraged by the fact that an increasing number of BCCJ members are inviting their business contacts to events, thereby enhancing both the richness of the debate among members of our audiences and their diversity. It is something that the chamber wholeheartedly encourages, and I take this opportunity to remind you that many of our events are open to your guests.

Recent examples include a cutting-edge session with platinum member BT on technologies that enable flexible working and enhance worker mobility. Then, on 27 February, we will be welcoming human resources leaders from Unilever Japan KK and Astellas Pharma Inc. for a panel discussion on the development of global leaders in Japan. That will be followed on 2 March by a look at the changing international order when, together with the Japan–British Society, we welcome back Bill Emmott, former editor-in-chief of The Economist.

While discussion at BCCJ events is focused on business, I am reminded by posters from the UK government’s GREAT Britain campaign that the UK–Japan relationship encompasses not just business and investment, but also tourism and education. Cultural exchange is a powerful force for developing enduring positive relations between Britain and Japan.

Those who recognize this, and the vital role that Britain’s internationally renowned schools and universities play, will have been heartened by the University of Oxford’s recent announcement that former UK Ambassador to Japan, Tim Hitchens CMG LVO, has been elected President of Wolfson College, commencing in early summer 2018. The future of cultural diplomacy is indeed in safe hands.