January 13, 2022
Professor Kohei Itoh
President, Keio University
My objective for this year is to give it my all as an intrapreneur at Keio University. Consulting the Cambridge Dictionary yields the following definition of an intrapreneur: "an employee within a large company who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable new product, service, business, etc. often instead of leaving to start their own company." While the more familiar "entrepreneur," is someone who independently starts a business, an intrapreneur creates new business within a corporation to which they are already affiliated. However, my slightly broader interpretation is to define an intrapreneur as "a person who transforms their own company from the inside."
It takes considerable determination and hard work to be the instrument of transformations in the organization to which you are affiliated. This must also be premised on an understanding of the purpose and mission of that organization, coupled with one's own sense of purpose and vocation. In this area, Fukuzawa's truly noteworthy legacy, including his countless writings and memoirs, continues to inspire the faculty, staff, students, and alumni of Keio University today. As might well be expected, I myself am one such individual, who has been profoundly inspired by Fukuzawa and with a deep affection for Keio University. As such, I aspire to becoming an intrapreneur within this university, to endeavor on its behalf that it might further develop as a trailblazer for all of society.
However, one should not content oneself with becoming an intrapreneur at Keio University alone. While all of us here must, in the role of intrapreneurs, seek to improve Keio, we should further position ourselves as the interpreneurs of society. In other words, it is imperative that we contribute to the development of society as a whole. I am sure that most of you are aware of the difference between an intranet (an internal communications network such as LAN) and the internet (a communications network connecting all of society). Similarly, while an intrapreneur is a person who transforms an organization from the inside, the word interpreneur is intended to indicate someone who brings together their peers at such an organization and then goes on to transform society at large. In this sense, Fukuzawa was the eminent interpreneur of Modern Japan.
Fukuzawa concludes, in Section Nine of An Encouragement of Learning, that a person has not fulfilled their duties as a citizen even if they have found a good profession, settled down, and built a thriving household. He goes on to open Section Ten with a summing up of his argument in the previous section, stating that:
Here, Fukuzawa is exhorting us to strive, as leaders of society, for the progress of the world at large.
The noteworthy phrase here is "enter the communities of social life," The underlined portion of this phrase is a back-translation into English of the four-character Japanese compound (人間交際). Fukuzawa favored, jinkan-kosai, rather than the verb-phrase implied by reading the same characters as ningen-kosai1 in his rendering of the English noun "society."2 So, what does this nuanced difference in the Japanese signify?
In Japan, great value has traditionally been invested in one's "public life," with a prevailing emphasis on social relationships and mutual cooperation among the members of particular circles within a community, such as one's fellow villagers. I will call such social relationships as a member of an inner circle "ningen-kosai," or interpersonal associations. On the other hand, there is a tendency to place less importance on social relationships with persons outside of one's own circle. For example, while deference towards those around us would be entirely lacking during the scuffle to get hold of one's desired items during a sale, as soon as we become aware that the person with whom we are scuffling is known to us, we defer to this friend by offering them first dibs on the item. Similarly, in the scramble to secure a seat on a train, however fiercely we may compete with a stranger, we will immediately give up that seat when our fellow passenger is someone we know. Fukuzawa perceived the seamless alliance based on similar ethical and moral principles between fellow human beings who belonged to different circles, companies, and localities as leading to the gradual formation of civilization in Western societies, translating the concept of the "virtuous society" thus formed as jinkan-kosai. Fukuzawa accordingly termed interactions among mutually familiar actors ningen-kosai, and the virtuous society produced by organic connections between mutually unfamiliar actors jinkan-kosai. He further asserts in his Lecture on Repairs of Buzen-Bungo Roads of 1874 that "The most important thing in society is the relationships between one person and the next. It is an essential element of learning."
In Section Nine of An Encouragement of Learning he then says that:
As can be understood from the argument above, Fukuzawa was an interpreneur, one who not only effortlessly succeeded in the task of transforming the milieu and circles to which he belonged, but who endeavored to bind together villages and towns to create civilized society and a civilized Japan. To this end, Fukuzawa created Keio University, the Jiji-shimpo newspaper and the Kojunsha club. In his numerous writings such as An Encouragement of Learning and his opinion pieces in the Jiji-shimpo he also sought to inspire the people of Japan to join him in creating this new civilized society, while raising the flag of devotion to the cause of scholarship for all and wide to see.
Nevertheless, while the goal of scholarship may be to create an improved society by skillfully negotiating among different social milieus and fellow members of an organization, it is inevitable that not all the personal relationships involved in achieving this will follow a logical progression. The aim of learning is to demonstrate, by academic means, the logical principles which drive progress in a society where vested interests converge. However, in reality, even if they are underpinned by sound logic, matters are often decided by the vagaries and biases of human relations. My hunch is that herein lies the key to why Fukuzawa did not simply use the conventional Japanese word, "shakai" for his translation of "society." What then becomes critical is individual strength of character. Being a "source of honorable character" is not confined to the inner circle referred to as the Keio Gijuku Shachu―the students, faculty members, alumni, parents, and other stakeholders of Keio―but will mean equipping oneself with a disposition naturally inclined to cooperation, even when viewed by those outside that circle.
Allow me now to wrap up my introduction of both the word intrapreneur, and interpreneur.
Together we will first become the intrapreneurs of Keio University. These intrapreneurs will then produce subsequent generations of interpreneurs at Keio, who will use the means we have here at our disposal to transform the whole of society. Consequently, our duties as interpreneurs of both Keio University and the Keio Gijuku Shachu have room to grow. In parallel with this, we must work towards becoming "sources of honorable character" and equip ourselves with dispositions that make us an attractive prospect for anyone to cooperate with.
Finally, and in order to avoid potential misunderstandings, I would like to add that entrepreneur training, entrepreneurship education, and the social implementation of research results are also strongly promoted at Keio University. As various statistics bear witness, it is not enough to merely transform business at existing corporations; new industries are also key to economic growth. The aim of entrepreneurship at Keio University is not limited to merely making money but seeking to contribute to the development of society in our capacity as interpreneurs.
1 A reverse translation of ningen-kosai into English would be closer to "human interactions" than "society".
2 In fact, the reading jinkan has fallen out of fashion in recent years, and whether Fukuzawa consciously changed the reading is not known. However, in this piece I assume for our purposes that this was the case.