Considering How to Work and How Organizations Should Be, in an Age of Value Creation
Tadashi Uda , Associate Professor
Graduate School of Economics and Business Administration (School of Economics and Business Administration, Department of Business Administration)
High school : Hyogo Prefectural Seiryo High School.
Academic background : Kobe University Graduate School of Business Administration
What are you hoping to achieve?
I am looking into more creative and autonomous ways of working, along with the types of organizations that facilitate this. What do you think about when you consider the working environment at a typical company? You probably have a vague image of formality and monotony. So what would you describe as your ideal work conditions? I have asked this question of many students, and most of them reply “stability” and “security” alongside “autonomy” and “creativity.” “Autonomy,” as we define it here, is having discretion over the content of our work and how it is carried out, our income structures, working hours and work location. “Creativity” is the generation of value such as new ideas and technologies.
In fact, this sort of desire is nothing new; it has been sought by many generations. It has not, however, been satisfactorily achieved to date (and for that reason, it is still considered an “ideal”) (Fig. 1). Originally, an organization came into being when work that could not be done by a single person was divided up, and individuals took on their own jobs, which were allocated and done in step with the pace of work done by others. In other words, an organization could be said to be a place in which it is intrinsically difficult for an individual to express his or her own will or creativity in regard to work. Specifically, in hierarchical organizations such as large-scale companies and government departments, this is even more the case, since in principle, work is carried out according to a set of predetermined rules.
More recently, however, in areas such as Europe, the US and Japan, many organizations have raised the level of autonomy allowed within their organizations, and are seeking structures that allow individuals to express their creativity to a greater degree. The background to this is the major social change in the form of transition from a focus on efficiency to one on creation of value, arising from the diffusion of products and services within a maturing market. In this age, where value creation is required, I have tried to solve the age-old questions regarding the ideal way of working and the ideal organization – for both individuals and organizations – as they are being asked anew (Fig. 2).
What are you studying and what is your focus?
I am mainly engaged in interview surveys of creators who have set up independently or begun their own companies. Specifically, I am collecting data from designers and directors, among others, who do not belong to specific organizations, in relation to their progress to date, the content of their work, their personal networks, etc. The reason I have focused on these people is that they are interacting with organizations, but at the same time engaged in autonomous, creative work, and are therefore an interesting subject of research.
These people, however, create magazines, movies, applications, etc., while building relationships with a diverse range of actors (including their clients, agents, and (public) supporters) within the content industry (including publishing, creation and supply of images, computer games or other information). In addition, they are influenced by the attributes of the industry and the regions in which they work, and national systems. For this reason, I am also involved in explaining relationships between the different actors, and the situational factors that surround said actors. Furthermore, I am also looking at how the diverse actors that exist around these creators specifically cooperate within a project organization in order to create value.
It has become clear as a result of these studies that, for example, creators in Japan exist under severe conditions in terms of autonomy and expression of creativity at work when compared with those in Europe and the US. The factors behind this include the fact that they are engaged in subcontracted work allocated by major companies, that there is a lack of understanding regarding creativity among the clients, and that there is a lack of policy support for creators. Though the problem is complex, I have found out profound and significant issues.
What are you aiming for next?
More recently I have been conducting research into the way of working known as “coworking,” and workplaces referred to as “coworking spaces.” “Coworking” is defined as a way of working in which diverse individual workers such as freelancers and corporate employees share a workplace and are able to communicate and collaborate in their work as required. This way of working and its spaces have been attracting attention because they may be able to provide a more flexible work style, more diverse members to interact with, and more open spaces than conventional work style within a company or a corporate office, as well as increasing freedom within the workplace, and many people are interested in it as a result. In fact, many coworking spaces have been opened in different countries, mainly in Europe and the US so far, and the number of people practicing coworking is increasing steadily. I aim to deepen my research in this area, while keeping an eye on new trends in relation to the ways of working and workplaces.