Mr. Atsuhito Ito
OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development)
Executive Directorate, Head of Expenditure Section
At OECD in Paris, Mr. Atsuhito Ito is responsible for areas of organisation expenditure, and also oversees continuing reform linked to these areas by identifying needs, implementing appropriate policies and procedures and ensuring effective human resource management. In this article, we would like to explore the roots of Atsuhito, who accumulated a wide range of experience in the private sectors and now works in an international organisation. What is necessary for a Japanese to work in an international environment?
OECD promotes policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. It provides a unique forum in which 34 governments work together to share experiences on what drives economic, social and environmental change, seeking solutions to common problems. In this context a diverse staff with different culture backgrounds and ways of thinking works together. The official languages of the organisation are English and French. These two languages are used on a daily basis. Accordingly, the efficient communication in both languages is extremely important. Even within the department, it is necessary to focus on methods for clear and accurate conveyance of information. The accumulation of such effort leads to smooth communication throughout the entire OECD.
Atsuhito feels most fulfilled when he achieves a goal shared with his colleagues of different nationalities and backgrounds. Since he works at the OECD Programme, Budget and Financial Management, Atsuhito also feels a sense of accomplishment by contributing to efficient operation throughout the organisation. For example, he feels proud when financial statements or activity reports are recognized by member countries and external auditors, or when a new, efficient procedure and finance system is implemented at the OECD and leads to smoother operation.
Expertise and broad knowledge acquired in the Faculty of Policy Studies
While at university, Atsuhito studied in the Faculty of Policy Studies and the Graduate School of Policy Studies. Through classes and seminars, he acquired a broad knowledge and an expertise which formed his core competencies. Atsuhito says that what he learned at Chuo University applies to his current work.
At graduate school, Atsuhito focused on finance, information systems and networks through instruction from Professor Masakazu Ōhashi, who is involved in a wide range of fields including information processing and information science/engineering. Under the guidance of Professor Ōhashi, Atsuhito also became interested in English, French, strategic policy, politics and culture. He was totally engrossed in his studies.
The appeal of the Faculty of Policy Studies is that students do not merely specialize in their field of expertise; rather, they acquire a broad range of knowledge that includes strategy and policy making, international relations, law and jurisprudence, and active acquirement of language skills. For example, as part of a report in his anthropology class, Atsuhito spent several weeks in a remote area of Senegal with no electricity or running water. By volunteering as an instructor of health and sanitation at the village school, Atsuhito conducted research on the theme of coexistence and co-operation between tribes. Even today, these activities serve as a base when he considers business or economic development in emerging nations.
Atsuhito also made many unique friends during his time at university. These friends are an irreplaceable treasure for him. “My friends from university are now active in a variety of fields,” he says. “Even today, we still exchange ideas and opinions about world affairs and businesses.”
He who knows most speaks least.—A proverb which doesn’t apply to international business
In front of the OECD Headquarters
“In Japan, it seems like the word global has taken on a life of its own and is being misinterpreted,” says Atsuhito, drawing upon his experience as a global professional to discuss the current state of Japan.
“For Anglophone which English is their native language, global means advancing their own work” he explains. “It seems that many Japanese people consider global to mean simply following the lead of western countries” However, merely speaking fluent English doesn’t make a person global. For example, in our age of rapid change, one day China or India could lead the world in the future. At that time, a global professional will be someone who speaks Chinese or Hindu, and who has a deep understanding of culture in the two countries.
What kind of person is a true global professional in the future? According to Atsuhito, of course strong language skills and working ability are important but that is not everything. He says the most important thing is that you must go out into the world as one of a global citizen and find benefit for yourself. You must have a strong sense of purpose, which will lead you to conduct negotiations and to influence and persuade others.
“I have lived in 6 countries on the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia,” says Atsuhito. “In my experience in a global environment where we encounter and work daily with people of various nationalities I sometime feel that Japanese are too quiet.”
Japanese people are diligent and also possess outstanding skill abilities, but they seem to lack the ability to be assertive and to insist their right. As a result, they are sometime unable to display their real ability. Even if they have strong competencies, they could place themselves at a disadvantage in the global stage.
In a Japanese society, emphasis is placed on refined modesty and the idea that he who knows most speaks least. Such an attitude can work inside the Japanese society but cannot be applied in a global society. Outside Japan, the international society is composed of people from various nationalities. That means people have to explain their intention and right clearly.
As society becomes increasingly global in the future, more than ever there is no place for a wait-and-see attitude, or just being obedient. The posture of being silent and waiting for someone to notice or understand is obsolete. “Even before acquiring knowledge or language skills, it is important to confidently state your opinion on a global stage,” says Atsuhito. “You must become a professional who can influence and persuade others for yourself.”