Why the “hybrid thinking” theme.
Recently it dawned on me that I am living a “hybrid” life, or rather I realised that I could use that word to pull together a bunch of consistencies in my life. Hybrids are genetic mixes, a bit like my children since they are half Japanese and half anglo-saxon-celt. But rather than genetics, I intend to use the hybrid idea as more of a metaphor for ideas, behaviour and culture. My family life is a hybrid of Japanese and British: igo classes followed by cricket practice; udon for lunch but roast pork for dinner. What does this mean for my kids? I am really not sure, but am definitely in the process of discovering.
Likewise professionally I run a company, Profero Tokyo, which is a hybrid culture. We are about half Japanese, half international including a few international Japanese. A lot of our work is with international businesses and brands that are well adjusted to Japan, not least thanks to our efforts, but are very much “un-Japanese” in their DNA. One way of looking at what we do is as an interface between Japan and the world, bringing ideas and their conduits, the brands, in, and taking Japanese brands out of Japan too. To do this we have to be this hybrid culture that is not one nor the other, but both at the same time.
In this sense we all grow up in slightly hybrid contexts, there is no such thing as the “normal British company” or “standard Japanese upbringing” and all companies and families are a blend of influences, but the contrasts that I both enjoy and am challenged by on a daily basis are a little more extreme than most, at least compared to my own previous experiences. I believe that with highly contrasting hybrid cultures there is a great chance of creating a really original and special offspring, just like the hybrid vegetable depicted above with its gorgeous fractal structure, but also a higher chance the result ends up a bit messed up!
Who would be interested in a blog about my hybridised life?
That is a very good question! Well, I will touch on themes that I believe are relevant to anyone trying to nurture a positive hybrid culture or environment, whatever the mix is. There is no doubt that what I write will be coloured with the context of Tokyo, as well as the uniqueness of Profero: a company founded in London with global curiosity at its heart from the outset, but I will be trying to draw generalised conclusions from my local examples.
I also believe that Japan will play more of a pathfinder role in global society, confronting all kinds of issues before other countries inevitably meet them themselves, and so I intend to proactively imagine what that role will be, pick up examples of Japanese technology and social trends that might be indicative, and based on these rethink Japan’s role in the world.