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"If you're as interested in Japan as I am, I think you'll find that The Power to Compete is a smart and thought-provoking look at the future of a fascinating country." - Bill Gates, "5 Books to Read This Summer" Father and son - entrepreneur and economist - search for Japan's economic cure The Power to Compete tackles the issues central to the prosperity of Japan - and the "If you're as interested in Japan as I am, I think you'll find that The Power to Compete is a smart and thought-provoking look at the future of a fascinating country." - Bill Gates, "5 Books to Read This Summer" Father and son - entrepreneur and economist - search for Japan's economic cure The Power to Compete tackles the issues central to the prosperity of Japan - and the world - in search of a cure for the "Japan Disease." As founder and CEO of Rakuten, one of the world's largest Internet companies, author Hiroshi Mikitani brings an entrepreneur's perspective to bear on the country's economic stagnation. Through a freewheeling and candid conversation with his economist father, Ryoichi Mikitani, the two examine the issues facing Japan, and explore possible roadmaps to revitalization. How can Japan overhaul its economy, education system, immigration, public infrastructure, and hold its own with China? Their ideas include applying business techniques like Key Performance Indicators to fix the economy, using information technology to cut government bureaucracy, and increasing the number of foreign firms with a head office in Japan. Readers gain rare insight into Japan's future, from both academic and practical perspectives on the inside. Mikitani argues that Japan's tendency to shun international frameworks and hide from global realities is the root of the problem, while Mikitani Sr.'s background as an international economist puts the issue in perspective for a well-rounded look at today's Japan. Examine the causes of Japan's endless economic stagnation Discover the current efforts underway to enhance Japan's competitiveness Learn how free market "Abenomics" affected Japan's economy long-term See Japan's issues from the perspective of an entrepreneur and an economist Japan's malaise is seated in a number of economic, business, political, and cultural issues, and this book doesn't shy away from hot topics. More than a discussion of economics, this book is a conversation between father and son as they work through opposing perspectives to help their country find The Power to Compete.


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"If you're as interested in Japan as I am, I think you'll find that The Power to Compete is a smart and thought-provoking look at the future of a fascinating country." - Bill Gates, "5 Books to Read This Summer" Father and son - entrepreneur and economist - search for Japan's economic cure The Power to Compete tackles the issues central to the prosperity of Japan - and the "If you're as interested in Japan as I am, I think you'll find that The Power to Compete is a smart and thought-provoking look at the future of a fascinating country." - Bill Gates, "5 Books to Read This Summer" Father and son - entrepreneur and economist - search for Japan's economic cure The Power to Compete tackles the issues central to the prosperity of Japan - and the world - in search of a cure for the "Japan Disease." As founder and CEO of Rakuten, one of the world's largest Internet companies, author Hiroshi Mikitani brings an entrepreneur's perspective to bear on the country's economic stagnation. Through a freewheeling and candid conversation with his economist father, Ryoichi Mikitani, the two examine the issues facing Japan, and explore possible roadmaps to revitalization. How can Japan overhaul its economy, education system, immigration, public infrastructure, and hold its own with China? Their ideas include applying business techniques like Key Performance Indicators to fix the economy, using information technology to cut government bureaucracy, and increasing the number of foreign firms with a head office in Japan. Readers gain rare insight into Japan's future, from both academic and practical perspectives on the inside. Mikitani argues that Japan's tendency to shun international frameworks and hide from global realities is the root of the problem, while Mikitani Sr.'s background as an international economist puts the issue in perspective for a well-rounded look at today's Japan. Examine the causes of Japan's endless economic stagnation Discover the current efforts underway to enhance Japan's competitiveness Learn how free market "Abenomics" affected Japan's economy long-term See Japan's issues from the perspective of an entrepreneur and an economist Japan's malaise is seated in a number of economic, business, political, and cultural issues, and this book doesn't shy away from hot topics. More than a discussion of economics, this book is a conversation between father and son as they work through opposing perspectives to help their country find The Power to Compete.

30 review for The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ruxandra

    (Recommended by Bill Gates) Why is innovation important? Or why price should stay the same, while we continue to innovate? Long story short, innovation is the major force of economic growth. Before the economist Joseph Schumpeter came up with this theory, economists believed that the main driver for economic growth was profit—the excess from profit could be reinvested in scaling up the business or could fund new research. However, profits can be easily destroyed in price wars, where the competition (Recommended by Bill Gates) Why is innovation important? Or why price should stay the same, while we continue to innovate? Long story short, innovation is the major force of economic growth. Before the economist Joseph Schumpeter came up with this theory, economists believed that the main driver for economic growth was profit—the excess from profit could be reinvested in scaling up the business or could fund new research. However, profits can be easily destroyed in price wars, where the competition offers the same or a similar product for a better price. As a result, margins become smaller and smaller, i.e., the price comes closer to the production cost, unless you differentiate your product. At the same time, even in the absence of price wars, an increase in business scale can't alone ensure long-term economic growth because the expansion of the workforce that comes with the increase in scale only means more wages to pay, therefore increasing costs. What economic growth really needs is an increase in productivity and a continuous improvement of the product, which can only be driven by innovation. Consequently, profit is solely the effect of economic growth, and not at all the cause. This was my main takeaway from this book, but not the only interesting economic concept put forth by Hiroshi's dialogue with his father, Ryoichi. Other ones where Duessenberry's demonstration and ratchet effects, the Laffer curve of maximizing tax revenue by changing tax levels, etc. Oh, by the way, is bureaucracy necessarily bad? You'll be suprised, maybe, to find out that there are some well paying and very highly performing bureaucracies out there. Having spent only a couple of weeks in Japan, I had a few intuitions about how isolated the Japanese society is, about how the heyday of Japan is a few decades gone, and how actually it's ironic that they have spaceship toilets, but credit cards don't work almost anywhere and the city of Tokyo is not welcoming at all for disabled people. Just like the many Japanese films I've seen, this book confirmed most of my intuitions. After you know the facts (for example, after you find out about lifetime employment and the lack of women in the workforce), all the proposals in the book become common sense. What took me by surprise was the idea that, in a country like Japan, Rakuten has already been functioning for years with English as the language of work. I wouldn't have deemed it possible, but it's probably speaking well about the success of Rakuten. Also, I am glad to find in the Mikitani family, much bigger supporters of the American economic policy than I am myself. Last but not least, the point that we shouldn't be terrified by globalization, but, on the contrary, embrace it faster than anyone else becomes utterly important in the current context of Brexit, Trump, and the general geopolitical situation in Western countries. "Globalization doesn't mean losing your nationality," writes Ryoichi in the epilogue. There is no gain in isolating ourselves from an increasingly globalized world. It will catch up with us anyway, and the wave will crush us if we don't learn to ride it in time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Abhijeet

    This book left a lot to be desired given it was on Gates' reading list. Once the main point had been made - Japan's protectionist policies have resulted in it ceding its technological advantages to South Korea and Singapore - the theme was repeated ad infinitum. Although structured as a debate, the conversation between Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten's CEO and his economist father ends up with the older man just acquiescing to his son's grandstanding. Apart from making the English language mandatory This book left a lot to be desired given it was on Gates' reading list. Once the main point had been made - Japan's protectionist policies have resulted in it ceding its technological advantages to South Korea and Singapore - the theme was repeated ad infinitum. Although structured as a debate, the conversation between Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten's CEO and his economist father ends up with the older man just acquiescing to his son's grandstanding. Apart from making the English language mandatory for all Japanese, which is a Rakuten initiative, there are no new insights into how Japan can regain competitiveness other than opening trade barriers and permitting immigration.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kenyici

    A fresh perspective at my home town where I was born. I enjoyed the book. It is very fun to learn about 2 very qualified people from different times ( old & new ) looking at key economic topics about Japan. It is also very interesting, how much the two agree with each other. I'm going to quote the review from Gates Notes here as it is what drew me to the book, and I hope it does the same for you. Link: https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/The-... .....Of course Japan is also intensely interesting A fresh perspective at my home town where I was born. I enjoyed the book. It is very fun to learn about 2 very qualified people from different times ( old & new ) looking at key economic topics about Japan. It is also very interesting, how much the two agree with each other. I'm going to quote the review from Gates Notes here as it is what drew me to the book, and I hope it does the same for you. Link: https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/The-... .....Of course Japan is also intensely interesting to anyone who follows global economics. In the 1980s, it was a juggernaut. Countless books and articles touted the effectiveness of Japan’s state-controlled capital and the businesses where employees would sing the company song every morning. There was serious discussion about whether America needed higher tariffs to challenge Japan. That is not the case today. Many of Japan’s companies have been eclipsed by competitors in South Korea and China. Samsung, based in Seoul, is worth more than all Japanese consumer electronics companies combined. And the economy has experienced deflation—a downturn that many economists once thought was limited to Japan, but now seems to be more global. So what happens in Japan matters a lot to the rest of the world. How did Japan lose its way? Can it come back? There is no shortage of books wrestling with these questions. One that I read recently and found super-interesting is The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy, by the father-and-son team Ryoichi Mikitani and Hiroshi Mikitani. It is a series of dialogues between Hiroshi—founder of the Internet company Rakuten—and his father, Ryoichi, a respected economist and author. (Ryoichi Mikitani died in 2013.) A while back I spent a day with Hiroshi and found him to be a bright, engaging guy. I gather that he is viewed as something of a maverick in Japan. In The Power to Compete he lays out a five-point plan for revitalizing Japan’s economy, which includes relaxing regulations on business, encouraging innovation, engaging more globally, and building up the “Made in Japan” brand. The book is a quick read at just over 200 pages. Although I don’t agree with everything in Hiroshi’s program, I think he has a number of good ideas. He talks about bringing more women into the workforce and encouraging more people to learn and use English. And I would love to see Japanese companies become more innovative—not just because it will make them more competitive, but because the whole world benefits from great ideas and technologies, whoever invents them. Ultimately, I am bullish on Japan. It is still a wealthy country. It has come back from much worse circumstances, as any student of World War II knows. The quality of life there is high, and its education system is strong (although Ryoichi Mikitani argues that it should spend more on schools). The country is unlikely to emerge as the singular leader it was in the 1980s, but its future is still quite bright. If you’re as interested in Japan as I am, I think you’ll find that The Power to Compete is a smart and thought-provoking look at the future of a fascinating country

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adam Bratt

    After traveling around Asia as a business consultant, I was curious to learn more about how Japan is setting itself up for future success. Despite being the 4th largest economy in the world and topping the charts for standard of living... Japan doesn't get much Western recognition these days. This book attempts to explain parts of that and create a plan for Japan to become innovative again. Hiroshi makes some amazing points but sandwiches it between a lot of complaining about certain Japanese After traveling around Asia as a business consultant, I was curious to learn more about how Japan is setting itself up for future success. Despite being the 4th largest economy in the world and topping the charts for standard of living... Japan doesn't get much Western recognition these days. This book attempts to explain parts of that and create a plan for Japan to become innovative again. Hiroshi makes some amazing points but sandwiches it between a lot of complaining about certain Japanese systems without diving into too much detail. Some areas he does dive deep into and present a solution, but other areas he doesn't seem to address after posing the problem. I also found a lot of the economic theory contained in the book to be superfluous and it made the middle portion hard to get through. I realize his father is an economist but a lot of it was simple concepts that seemed really dumbed down over 10-15 pages for the reader. Main takeaways: - Japanese labor system is tied to the concept of a lifelong salaryman and that leads to businesses that can't be allowed to fail lest a lot of people are put on the streets - TOEFL should be required for Japanese students in order to increase English comprehension as well as encourage them to attend international schools and gain a more global perspective - So many parts of Japanese bureaucracy are rooted in the past: farmers votes count more than city dwellers, impossible to fire people, no distinction between blue collar and white collar means white collar creativity and innovation is stifled - Japan needs to embrace foreigners and work on exporting its brand globally

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ganesh Srinivasan

    The Power to Compete is a great insight into the Japanese economy. The book is presented as a conversation between Hiroshi and Ryoichi Mikitani, thus making it an engaging read. The authors contest the past policies of Japanese policymakers for contributing to Japan's "extremely in-efficient" economy and labour market. They convincingly shed light into why Japan is lagging behind South-Korea, China and Singapore in economic growth. Even as the authors have negative outlook on the current status The Power to Compete is a great insight into the Japanese economy. The book is presented as a conversation between Hiroshi and Ryoichi Mikitani, thus making it an engaging read. The authors contest the past policies of Japanese policymakers for contributing to Japan's "extremely in-efficient" economy and labour market. They convincingly shed light into why Japan is lagging behind South-Korea, China and Singapore in economic growth. Even as the authors have negative outlook on the current status quo in Japan, they believe that Japan will prosper if it could leverage on its abundant cultural gifts to create an open economy. To this extent, the authors propose specific policy shifts that may help the Japan economy grow. In summary, the hard-truths nature of the book and the general introspection by the authors on their country makes it a good read for anyone keen to understand the macro-issues facing the Japanese economy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Huan Ha

    This book may be interesting for people who “don’t know much” about economics and want to know about the problem of the economy of Japan. The book is also written in a non-standard way: it is presented in the form of conversations between the two authors instead of the normally writing style. While this style is often used in buddhist and some philosophy books, this is the first time that I see this style in a modern topic like economics. For someone who are not really in economics, the book This book may be interesting for people who “don’t know much” about economics and want to know about the problem of the economy of Japan. The book is also written in a non-standard way: it is presented in the form of conversations between the two authors instead of the normally writing style. While this style is often used in buddhist and some philosophy books, this is the first time that I see this style in a modern topic like economics. For someone who are not really in economics, the book provides a nice view about the economy of Japan, its problems, some potential solutions and economic insight behind them. However, for someone who are already in the field, the book does not provide any new insight, not even a synthesis or review of what we know. Clearly this book aims for a broad audience, particularly Japanese as a call for reform of their economy.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nate Shurilla

    Mikitani-san has lots of interesting ideas and a big ego, which is partly why he's been so successful. Overall an interesting read with some very good ideas and some mislead by bias. Would recommend to those who have lived and worked in Japan as the details from behind-the-scenes meetings with government were particularly informative. Did end on a sad note though (not purposefully) with his dad saying what a joy it was to be able to have spent time with his son through these discussions. That Mikitani-san has lots of interesting ideas and a big ego, which is partly why he's been so successful. Overall an interesting read with some very good ideas and some mislead by bias. Would recommend to those who have lived and worked in Japan as the details from behind-the-scenes meetings with government were particularly informative. Did end on a sad note though (not purposefully) with his dad saying what a joy it was to be able to have spent time with his son through these discussions. That along with the awkward exchange where Mikitani-san mentioned some award he received from a foreign dignitary some years ago to his dad exclaiming that was fantastic and they should go celebrate showed the type of familial relations he has maintained and made me want to be a better son and communicate more with my own family.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jerome Ydarack

    Some good insights on the structure of some Japanese industries but: - IT everywhere - English everywhere (even though they recognise the level in nearby Asia is low and not that much a lingual Franca) - I don't think they understand why people are interested in Japan. At all. - on the biographical aspects of it, it's like the worst ever script ever written. I have seen distrustful strangers speak more warmly together.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Masatoshi Nishimura

    It's embarrassing for Japanese people to boast the uniqueness of "Japan, Japan, Japan", when in fact the problems are common throughout the world. Mikitani Hiroshi goes in talking about Japan branding. The branding is a byproduct of great products, and the Japan branding was established by great 20th companies like Toyota, Sony, Nintendo, etc. How much did his company Rakuten contribute to this branding? Zero. Work on your own company before criticizing the system.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Thanh Tran

    I really like the ideas how to make Japan more competitive, the adoption of English language more broadly is exactly one of those. The discussion about Japanese economy gives you the insides of how typical Japanese companies and society as a whole conceive and do business, which in turn affects the shaping of fiscal & monetary policies. It's really interesting when comparing the Japanese mindset with other countries', as told by a globalized Japanese person.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hoang Nguyen

    Around 200 pages, easy reading. Organized into dialogues between Mikitani, founder of Rakuten, and his late father, an economist. The pairs give their perspectives on how Japan becomes super power country in the world, its problems now and how their country should move forward to adapt new global economy. Asides from economic, the book give some interesting thing about Japan and its corporations. Worth to read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fengyang Song

    Majority of the ideas presented in the book are rather insightful and it is certainly worth a read. However, the problem is that the book actually gets repetitive on points which have already been raised earlier into the book. Of course, not all ideas raised are good but that's fine. Key is the message may easily get lost due to the poor way the book was written.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

    An insight into the culture of teamwork and optimism that drives Japanese innovation and exports. Quick read and enjoyable conversation. If they were recounting all those statistics from memory in conversation color me impressed.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Try Lee

    Like a conversation between a dad and a son. like a conversation between a professor (Yale University, United States and Kobe University, Japan) and a billionaire (CEO of Rakuten). I like how close of their family.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jökull Auðunsson

    Power of export An insight into the culture of teamwork and optimism that drives Japanese innovation and exports. Quick read and enjoyable conversation. If they were recounting all those statistics from memory in conversation color me impressed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mauricio

    Macro thought.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Lehman

    This was a freebie from work. I thought the combination of appeal to cultural influence and hard investments in infrastructure and education was sensible.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Qasim

    Bill Gates said you should read this book. He was right. As a student of economics, I found that book quite insightful.

  19. 4 out of 5

    George Agyeah

    A book about making the Japanese economy more efficient. If you are interested in development economics, you will enjoy reading this book. I liked the ideas and I believe they are applicable in my many countries.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Apoorv Jagtap

    The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy by Hiroshi Mikitani is an interesting take on discussing the political, economic, social and the overall state of Japan in this modern world. The book uses discussion between father and son to which keeps the reader engaged rather than just reading some facts. After reading this book I learned a lot of things about how various factors needs to be considered while making government policies. It was The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy by Hiroshi Mikitani is an interesting take on discussing the political, economic, social and the overall state of Japan in this modern world. The book uses discussion between father and son to which keeps the reader engaged rather than just reading some facts. After reading this book I learned a lot of things about how various factors needs to be considered while making government policies. It was a bit of a shock to realize that Japanese people are not yet connected with rest of the world and the government is being overprotective. Japanese companies have proven their competitiveness in the past and still continue to certain extent in some sectors but have seen some decline in the previous years. Most of the concepts discussed here are also applicable to other developing countries and I think governments in many countries (or at least in response to public opinion) are liberalizing trade, reducing or eliminating subsidies and encouraging competition around the world. The book covers various topics like economic effects, branding, tourism, widespread use of IT, open trading standards, encouraging global involvement in various sectors, creating hospitable environment for foreign nationals, and globalization in general to change to scenario of Japan. As mentioned in the book I do believe people of Japan are intelligent, hardworking, ethical and have the capacity to compete in this world. I hope that the government of Japan (not just the current one but all the successive ones to follow) follow some or most of the ideas mentioned in this book and not stifle innovation, creativity, productivity of Japanese people. I also hope that many people in Japan wake up after reading this book and fight for their own betterment, as the whole world would benefit from their contribution.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anchann

    Not a big fan of the scattered dialog format, but this was a good introduction to the various systemic problems in Japan that prevent it from competing on the world stage in the 21st century.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aderyn

    Japan post war economic growth was a miracle with almost two decades of unprecedented growth no other countries achieved within such a short time. There was a time, Japanese products were world leaders. Today their counterpart South Korea has overtaken them in technology like Samsung iPhone. I have been puzzled why since the asset bubble burst in In the 90' Japan seem to suffer a lost decade and unable to adapt to the changes in globalisation. The conversation between the two, an economist and Japan post war economic growth was a miracle with almost two decades of unprecedented growth no other countries achieved within such a short time. There was a time, Japanese products were world leaders. Today their counterpart South Korea has overtaken them in technology like Samsung iPhone. I have been puzzled why since the asset bubble burst in In the 90' Japan seem to suffer a lost decade and unable to adapt to the changes in globalisation. The conversation between the two, an economist and an entrepreneur on revitalising Japan in the global was very educational in assessing the reality of the obstacles Japan face in its challenges in adapting to the changes of globalisation. It addressed the challenges of the bureaucrat led political economy , the immigration problems, the educational system and the ageing population. The author presented ideas of how reform could be harnessed from their history and culture to compete with a competitive edge.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Peter Lim

    This is a really interesting book for those who wants to know more about Japan's economy in general and how Japan can maintain their competitiveness in this era of globalization. By using discussion format between Ryoichi Mikitani and his son, Hiroshi Mikitani, you can really enjoy the book as thought provoking talks, or you can even consider is as a light reading between a father and a son. Further more, the book driven our thought on how we can improve a country's, not only Japan's economy in This is a really interesting book for those who wants to know more about Japan's economy in general and how Japan can maintain their competitiveness in this era of globalization. By using discussion format between Ryoichi Mikitani and his son, Hiroshi Mikitani, you can really enjoy the book as thought provoking talks, or you can even consider is as a light reading between a father and a son. Further more, the book driven our thought on how we can improve a country's, not only Japan's economy in variable aspect such as education, medical, brand power and even sports. In short, a very recommend short book for economist.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jason Downey

    It was interesting for me to read well informed opinions on Japanese politics and policy from a highly influential Japanese businessman and economist. I felt that Hiroshi Mikitani was talking a bit too passionately at times and ended up sounding uninformed about a variety of issues, but he spoke intelligently more often than not, even when I disagreed with him.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Yen Ling

    -Offers an insider's glimpse into reasons behind Japan's persistent economic slump -Some noteworthy suggestions around economic/social/education reforms. -Can get repetitive at times, also unnecessarily biographical imho -Outsider's perspective on other countries' economic/social progress, should be taken with a grain of salt

  26. 5 out of 5

    Quynh Anh

    The author is very ambitious with all of his ideas. It's good to read the book to understand the Japanese corporate culture, even though it doesn't seem as interesting to me as the Japanese culture in general. Somehow, I think Mikitani-san should consider the cultural elements of Japan, the US, Germany,... to think how applicable his ideas are to apply those to Japan.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Ever wonder what happened to the market dominance of Sony or Panasonic? Very interesting read on the culture and economics of Japan, it's issues and possible solutions by the Chairman of Rakuten and his father, an economics professor. The additional dimension that it essentially captures a conversation between father and son, is at times, quite touching.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris Volzer

    Not really a fan of this book. The interview-style writing felt clunky and overly formal (I know he addresses this early on, but that doesn't help the fact the entire book is written in this manner). I'm not well versed in Japanese economics, but it does present things in an easily digestible manner.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bryce Pinder

    Pretty interesting read about the challenges the Japanese economy is facing. It's written as a conversation between a father and son, which makes it hard to read at times, but otherwise I enjoyed it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sasidhar Yalavarthi

    I think most of the thought process can be applied to any country. I would like to see a follow up book and probably a bit more critical analysis of the ideas presented. Overall, I would recommend others to skim through

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