“I predict that the 21st century will be most effected by a new breed of something we have not seen yet, which is a new form of chapter based organization. Institutions always need to be blown up every once in a while, because even with the best intentions and the great people, new things, you just need ‘new’ to be effective. There’s going to be a whole new breed of organizations like this.”
When I first heard these words I was taking notes as a relatively new member of the Japan Society staff. Japan Society’s U.S.-Japan Innovators Project was holding its second major retreat in Tokyo and it was my job to capture the overall experience, i.e. atmosphere and important ideas, of the three-day event. Needless to say I was very nervous and anxious to take on one of my first big tasks on the job. I listened and typed and tried my best to record what I could; however, after the retreat I realized nothing really sunk in. There was no time for me to mull over the information that flowed into my ears, through my fingers and onto the screen in front of me. Now, almost six months later I finally got a chance to sit down and go over my notes and transcripts for a purely personal look at what I may have missed. Let me tell you that after re-reading those notes I realized that the wisdom that came out of that retreat was incredible, and I’d like to share some of it with you.
Below is a list of some of my favorite quotes that came out of that retreat, in no particular order:
- “The high cost of the status quo, well basically what I keep writing down in my notes is SQ > C. Status Quo is costlier than a change. Now that’s a huge idea.”
- “You know, I’ve kind of figured out how to go from the bandstand to the board room and make it swing. I kind of figured out a way to improvise through that and think of the balance sheet as a set of changes, and never lose that ability say, ‘Why?’ Why do we have to do it that way? Can’t we have some fun with it and play with it? At the end of the year it’s going to be the same numbers. Why don’t we do it this way? And so we’ve been able to kind of improvise our way through it, and still have fun, and keep it going. I mean, that’s the point, is that without the fun part and the play, oh my goodness, I never could deal with these arts administrators and stuff.”
- “Start off with the assumption that people are assets, not liabilities, and treat them that way and you will see extraordinary things happen.”
- “What we need to do is to create these cycles, and allow innovation to be adaptive and not recreated, because we’re wasting so much money in international reconstruction trying to reinvent the same solutions to similar problems.”
- “Knowledge that can be expressed by word is available to anyone; therefore that knowledge is losing its value. However, it has become more important for us to have the tacit wisdom that cannot be expressed by words; for example, intuition, insight, imagination and creativity.”
- “I call it innovation acupuncture. The idea is that if you want to create large change, don’t do massive projects and expect a society or a culture to come with you. You have to do these small, little interventions and you put one in and you see if that thing spreads. That little pin makes a huge difference. If it doesn’t that’s okay, we’ll put another pin in. And we’ll keep going until those pins eventually make you feel better.”
- “Money is the raw material of politics. And politics is either the raw material of change or preserving the status quo.”
- “I am rich in terms of life, which I believe actually has more value, ultimately. I am not personally wealthy. But that is precisely – that actually gives me an advantage. Because when I’m able to talk with young people, particularly students and my staff, I’m able to say that I am not doing this because I am driven by wealth in the conventional monetary sense. I’m driven by a higher order of things that is more in the range of what this Japan-America conversation is all about. I believe at the end of the day, at the last day of your life, you only have your memories. You can’t take the money with you. So the question becomes to make sure that you have memories that reflect a quality experience and reverence for life.”
- “We need to examine is what we believe about homelessness and other social challenges…If we think that homelessness is about altruism, then we are comfortable with gestures like giving people money, handing out a bowl of soup. That’s something that makes us feel better. It doesn’t change the situation of someone who’s homeless.”
- “I’m here to contend that sooner or later, it does not come down to money. Sooner or later, it comes down to people. And you can call me some sort of a hippie freak if you’d like.”
P.S. – Check out the August 2, 2007 New York Times’ article Design Steps Up in Disaster’s Wake, by Allison Arieff. The article highlights the struggle of a woman trying to rebuild her and her family’s life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and how Architecture for Humanity came to her aid.