Earlier today, I passed a group of good citizens in charcoal gray woolen sweaters picking up little bits of trash at a local park, and a sense of futility washed over me. So many people fighting over so few bits of plastic in this pristine environment. So much trash awash in the world.
That should have warned me that the Sunday blues were coming on.
This evening they hit with a vengeance. I thought I couldn’t face one more day of commuting in the crowded, silent monorail, walking in the chain of suits from the station to the office while dodging killer bicycles, shuffling with the masses to badge in at the gate, walking through the silent, white-tiled hallways to my gray desk in our gray office. Where we sit and make PowerPoint slides, desperately fighting to save our company.
With the latest restructuring, we will lose two of our five women to a different office. And we will move locations. Now we are in a compact office with its own two conference rooms and a snack corner with a coffee pot–our spot of cheer and chaos in the pale grayness. When a new group’s director asked if he could have our space for a demo room, our director, always obliging, said okay. Just like that. Or so the story goes among the women. In any case, we are moving to one of the massive rooms downstairs, where we will be with other groups.
You’d think that would lead to more sharing, but in fact it will probably lead to more silence. No one can say anything now, because they might be revealing a secret to other groups.
Also, no more coffee. No open cups allowed on the desks. No snacking. No joking around.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to bear it.
How can we possibly innovate and survive if we don’t even talk to each other?
I’m witnessing Clayton Christensen’s innovator’s dilemma happening live, in painful, slowmo, blow-by-blow action. The cash cow of Japanese consumer electronics, TV, has been drying up for years. We let the cheap bottom end go to low-cost competitors, because it made financial sense, and ourselves became higher and higher end. Until finally that was taken, too.
We, and other Japanese CE companies, have other business areas that are promising and may make it, but will they make it well enough to support the numbers of people who work in CE? A lot of people are scared. Some people have become frantically busy. Others have given up and stopped working at all; they just come to the office and sit. Others continue the same as always, as if nothing has or ever will change.
Ganbarimashou! In the end, that’s all you can say. Let’s keep fighting!
But on Sunday evening, sometimes a dread of the office comes over me. So tonight when it hit, I took out on a bike ride, going to an area of Ibaraki City I’d never been to before. I climbed up a winding hill through bamboo groves and red-leaved trees, the pale autumn sun fading into the horizon. And then I coasted down into a valley of run-down apartment buildings, old Japanese style homes patched up with modern methods, small factories, vending machines lining the roads and glowing in bright colored lights–the only color in sight. I passed a group of smiling and laughing men who looked Indian or Pakistani, the eldest of them with a long, white beard and wearing white flowing cotton.
I startled an older lady when I turned my bicycle onto the sidewalk where she was walking. Short no-nonsense permed hair, sensible putty-colored walking shoes, paisley patterned fleece jacket and all, she gave me a long, dirty stare before finally turning her head back to the front and continuing her perambulation. I wanted to stick my tongue out at her, but refrained.
The reason I so rudely assaulted her space was to get a better look at this house:
My phone camera doesn’t do it justice, but it was gloriously dilapidated, crumbling at the edges. I thought it must be abandoned, and then I saw the light come on on the second floor and figures move around behind the veranda doors.
And suddenly my mood lightened. Maybe it was because the external world had matched my internal sense of things once strong and new now old and returning to the earth. I felt at home, as though I was in rural China or on a Mississippi farm. Here is a Japan with no pretensions or bureaucracy–at least not from the distance of the road. Possibly simply because those luxuries are unaffordable in this neighborhood. Possibly the inhabitants are from Vietnam or Mongolia and the owner is a slum lord. But here is a section of society, mostly hidden in the world I live in, that seems real to me, not surreal and grimly cute, like my office commute and environment or the newer part of Minoh.
But that’s my Sunday night mood. Ask me tomorrow when I’m in full swing at the office and I might say something completely different. Ganbarimashou!