It seems that the word “innovation” has been used since very early times, and that term still sounds more appealing and exciting for me. However, we might be able to say “Game Changer” instead of it. What do you come up with after listening to the word? Leading-edge technology? Or professor Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School? Interestingly, I suppose each person has a different definition of innovation. For example, the meaning of innovation in Japan, where I was born and raised, equals technological innovation.
So-called innovation is familiar to me. That is common now but was not so in the past. If you experience it, you can no longer go back to the former. It doesn’t necessarily mean that something innovative is the Nobel Prize-worthy invention at a top-rank university and the state-of-the-art technology in the global company’s R & D department. I can feel innovative about several things because they are common and familiar to us nowadays.
Online Lesson for a Foreign Language
If you learn a foreign language, what would you do? I choose a tutor online and then have an online lesson via video conferencing tools for about 15 to 25 minutes daily. It is my routine schedule, but something I couldn’t think of just ten years ago.
For example, not only a venture but also large-established companies provide English learning opportunities online in Japan. The reason why this genre is competitive is that many English learners demand this kind of service. Japan is not a unique case. Some Chinese companies hire many Philippine tutors and provide the lesson with small Chinese kids online easily and cheaply.
If you want to speak a foreign language fluently, you must speak the language again and again. The point is that, in my opinion, the language learner can have the lessons quickly and affordably. If you must pay expensive tuition and take a long time to get to school, you would not be able to continue to learn in that way. Judging from that, learning a foreign language online is the best way to do it.
Before the so-called online lesson is available, people used to try to learn the language by textbook. It was the era when there was not only an online learning platform but also YouTube and Netflix. I respect the people who try to learn foreign languages at such a period. If they mastered foreign languages through just textbooks, I would say they are a real genius. Fortunately, there are many methods to learn foreign languages nowadays, unlike in the past. We can learn foreign languages online effectively and efficiently, even if we are not geniuses. Why can’t we say that is innovation?
I believe streaming services like Netflix is one such innovation. Many companies deliver various content online. I think such a business model is not complicated, but we can no longer go back to the former if we experience them even once.
I used to take advantage of the rental DVD service before. I went to the shop in my neighborhood and then borrowed the DVDs at that time. I had to return DVDs within 2 or 3 days in many cases, but I often paid an overdue fee if I couldn’t return them back by the scheduled time. When I remember such a scene now, I feel even ridiculous about it. Now, I can watch hundreds of thousands of titles at home by paying just $8 to $10 per month. I can say it is a world away from what it was when I used to go to the shop from my residence.
I know there are many competitors in this industry, but I prefer Netflix to others. The reason why I like Netflix is that it has a lot of American content. Usually, Japanese people must wait a long time to see new Hollywood movies in the movie theater. Japanese people can see a new film on the day of the film’s premiere, which was already released almost a year ago in the US market. I don’t know why, but I have to say there is a considerable time lag between Japan and the global market.
On the other hand, everyone can see the new content on the Netflix platform simultaneously. I strongly feel that this is innovation. Plus, we can add and remove several foreign language subtitles. I’m not sure if the stock price of Netflix is appropriate, but I want to say Netflix is one of the innovative companies with confidence.
As you know, social media platforms became typical across the globe. Mainly, I prefer Twitter to other platforms because it is simple, and everyone can deliver messages and receive them at the same time.
Before social media became common, specific people had dominated the information. They were politicians, bureaucrats, legacy media like TV and newspaper, and so on. The information holds quite a lot of power. If you govern them, you can take the world by storm. The value of social media platforms like Twitter was to destroy such a monopoly of information. Even if you are a tiny individual, you can shake the world by giving valuable content via social media.
Of course, everything is not necessarily perfect. I have to say fake news is weighty, and cyberbullying shouldn’t be ignored. I know it is not easy for each platform to tackle controversial accounts. The social media industry has many complicated issues, but I don’t think we can go back to the era when there was not social media.
I wrote a story about Twitter on Medium before.
WFH (Working from Home)
The novel coronavirus destroyed many things. Not only human life but also the concept of values and even working style. Many people around the world had to work from home during this pandemic. Even if this pandemic is over, our working style won’t go back to normal.
I know many people can’t work from home, but fortunately, I can do that. The company I work for just announced that they will allow every employee to continue to work from home. Therefore, I’m going to continue to work from home in the days ahead. I don’t have to go to the office by boarding crowded public transportation. I can focus on my mission because the number of worthless meetings decreased. My sleeping time hasn’t decreased while working time has increased because I can decide my schedule, which is valuable for me.
Of course, everything has pros and cons. I must admit there are some problems there because meeting someone in person is the basis of our society. But I firmly think people had been ignoring the merit of working from home before the pandemic. This pandemic is changing the extreme bias of working style, which used to be common sense before Covid-19.
Our lifestyle will be influenced in a good sense by a new work style. For example, Tokyo, where I live now, has an overconcentration. Almost all headquarters are in the Tokyo area of Japan. Therefore, the so-called high-rise condominium, which was closed to the urban center, was trendy. However, such a trend will change as many people adapt to a new working style. If you love to go surfing, you can live near the outskirts that has a beach. You can start to work from home after surfing every morning. It is not a dream but real life. Even if you must carry out your family’s nursing care and can’t go to the office every day, you don’t have to give up your job. We don’t have to give up if we can work from home.
We came to work remotely thanks to technology, which was not only internet infrastructure but also communication tools like Slack, Zoom, and cloud solutions like G Suite. We got a new style by taking advantage of innovative modern technology.
Many people on the earth started to learn something online because they couldn’t go out due to the pandemic. I believe e-learning has a massive advantage, just like working from home. I feel e-learning has been underestimated so far. The advantages that e-learning can bring is that we can learn something high-quality anywhere at our own place.
Let me share my experience. I have subscribed to Harvard Business School Online before. I learned the Entrepreneurship Essentials program on HBS Online because I wanted to learn only entrepreneurial skills effectively. Honestly, I’m satisfied with the quality of the content. I didn’t have to take a long leave and stay in Boston in the US for a long time. I could learn high-quality content while staying and working in Japan. Everybody can have classes of top-ranked universities like Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, and so on nowadays thanks to remote learning technology. That means that not only specific elites but also many highly motivated people can learn something top-ranked universities provide. I have no choice but to appreciate such technology.
It is common in Japan for students to go to a domestic college or university. However, if e-learning becomes more prevalent, some might choose an e-learning program produced by a foreign university instead of going to the Japanese ones. Students can already get a degree through the University of the People, which has adopted online and free courses. We can get the so-called MBA that well-known foreign universities have provided mainly through online courses. You can learn high-quality learning content nowadays by taking advantage of e-learning opportunities if you have a strong motivation.
Speaking of innovation, some people tend to come up with cutting-edge science and technology, but I don’t necessarily think so. I believe standard service and custom is a real innovation that influences our lifestyle and working style to the full extent. As soon as we experienced them, as I already mentioned above, we can no longer go back to the former.
For example, some people are afraid that automated driving might bring serious incidents against humans. But the human would laugh at such a concern they used to have if automated driving became common. I feel less excited about the world without innovation. I respect the people who brought innovation to the world and continue to pursue innovation one way or another from the bottom of my heart.