Japan struggles to activate and accept the changing culture of youth at work

Japan Blocks the Young, Stifling the Economy - NYTimes.com

This is a fascinating piece in the Times on the struggles of the youth of Japan as culture runs head-on into a struggling economy.

As this fading economic superpower rapidly grays, it desperately needs to increase productivity and unleash the entrepreneurial energies of its shrinking number of younger people. But Japan seems to be doing just the opposite. This has contributed to weak growth and mounting pension obligations, major reasons Standard & Poor’s downgraded Japan’s sovereign debt rating on Thursday.

“There is a feeling among young generations that no matter how hard we try, we can’t get ahead,” said Shigeyuki Jo, 36, co-author of “The Truth of Generational Inequalities.” “Every avenue seems to be blocked, like we’re butting our heads against a wall.”

Consider this a brief coda to last week's post on millennials at work; the lesson we can learn from the struggle of Japan comes in how we appreciate those who foster change in our organizations. Have we trained our selves to identify those who drive us toward new horizons? Or do we thank them for their initiative with a kind request to get-back-to-work?

The term intrapreneurship isn't used nearly as often as it should be. In some organizations, it's labeled a joke. But it represents a powerful concept: "Intrapreneurship refers to employee initiatives in organizations to undertake something new, without being asked to do so." (PDF) It's about people coming together, activated by a culture aware of the energy that comes from teamwork, inspired to create, no matter the bureaucracy that may otherwise stand in their way.

In Japan, the roadblocks for youth in traditional careers are far stronger than forces that welcome and foster intrapreneurs. Working together, we can do better.