A friend of mine visited from Japan yesterday, and we had a chance to play golf and talk about the good old days. YK was one of the first employees when I started up a consulting firm for my parent company in the US. He was notorious for telling jokes that played on words. In the States, we would call that a pun. In Japan, it’s called a da-ja-reh.
The timing was interesting in that I was cleaning out storage space and found pictures from those days. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the old photos from ten years ago when digital cameras weren’t all that prevalent brought back memories.
The consulting firm that I started up was known in those days as one of the fastest rising consultancies, and my mission was in creating a US-centric culture in Japan. We experimented with anything and everything, tore down barriers in terms of how we hired, promoted, and developed people. We had frequent management meetings to make sure we stayed on message, that issues were dealt with proactively, and that we had a forward moving organizations. We used Jack Welch’s Work-Out, Enneagrams, TV Games, team retreats, and subfreezing survival games, mixing them with traditional Japanese bounen-kai (end of year), uchiage (project wrap-up), and shinen-kai (new year’s party). I made the ultimate sacrifice in trying to bond with my Japanese staff by volunteering for the soccer team, playing goalie.
We never won, largely because my goal keeping didn’t keep a lot of balls out of the net. YK was the leader of the soccer team, and the one thing we had in common was our desire to get a good laugh out of any situation, and our love for Star Wars.
One of my last acts as I left Japan to resume my duties in the US was to sneak out 50 people from the office to watch Star Wars-Phantom Menace’s opening in Tokyo, unbeknownst to my successor. It was a lot of fun.
On this trip, he showed me his new gadget, a $3,500 R2-D2 unit that acts as a projector, equipped with a Millenium Falcon remote. He’s my age, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
Some people never grow up, and they’re the ones who know how to have fun at work.
That’s a position that every organization needs… CFO, Chief Fun Officer.