Fear of Failure Stigma in Japans Start-Ups, Could it also Prevent Us to Make Good Life on this Planet Possible?

The excellent article “Stigma of failures holds back Japan start-ups” in Financial Times today” by Mure Dickie, embarked me on a thinking path that I want to share with you below.

I believe the phenomenon described in the article can be found back in Europe too.
It is though , in my opinion, not restricted to company (start-up) failure, but to the phenomenon of failure in general.

As such, I believe we are facing a quasi-universal phenomenon, which is extremely grave.


Because failure is the basis for learning, and learning is at the heart of human growth.

And we need to grow, to expand our thinking and meaning-making capacity, if we are believe Einstein’s words:

“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking (consciousness) with which we created them” (attributed)

We can also draw on the work of two researchers who have devoted their life to adult learning:

“The problem is the inability to close the gap between what we genuinely, even passionately, want and what we are actually able to do. Closing this gap is a central learning problem of the twenty-first century”.
Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey in “Immunity to Change”

Where might our resistance to “close the gap” come from?

Culture may be an answer.

I belief there are other answers.

Let’s meditate around Einstein’s words:

“The mere formulation of a problem is far more often essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science”.

So, what are the question we should be asking ourselves? How do we need to formulate them?

Elsewhere Einstein wrote:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Why are we so often “insane”? What’s the phenomenon at work here? Why don’t we try out new ways of doing?

Finally, still quoting Einstein:

“The search for truth implies a duty. One must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.”

This-one would lead me to ask: What are we concealing (to ourselves; to others)? Why? What can we do to thinking and acting fully transparently?

Let me try to present the above yet in another way:

  1.  Stigma of failure prohibits learning.
  2. There are strong indications that we need to learn to expand our thinking and mental meaning-making systems to be able to address the intractable problems of our time.
  3. Addressing these intractable problems requires at least two things

        a. That we live up to our duty to cease conceal ourselves from any part of what anyone  recognises to be true
         b. That we are able to work first on formulating the right questions

I believe that we should start working on formulating the right questions.
In the course of that process we need to allow ourselves to listen and accept what other consider to be true, as their thruth, as OK.
I call this “deliberative quality in exchange and mutual meaning-making.
This way we will embark on a virtuous learning spiral that will lead us in the end to expand our thinking and meaning-making.
Finally we might achieve the level necessary for reaching a level of cooperation amongst humans so as to create:

“the new global institutions necessary to regulate the natural, social, cultural, and technological currents that will make good life on this planet possible” (borrowed from “After God”, Mark C. Taylor p. 376)

This is then the end of the “thought stream” that the enclosed article provoked. I shared it with the author, I wanted to share with you all.


Amplify’d from www.ft.com

Stigma of failure holds back Japan start-ups

By Mure Dickie

Between 2007 and 2009, new company registrations fell from 95,363 to 79,902, according to Ministry of Justice data. Policymakers fret that a paucity of new companies is undermining growth and making it hard for Japan to innovate fast enough to stay competitive against China or South Korea.

“There are too few start-ups, so we are considering all kinds of policies that might be used to encourage them,” says Banri Kaieda, minister for trade and industry.

Small company bankruptcies often involve the total ruin of their owners, with an accompanying grim toll in resulting suicides.

“From olden times, if you were defeated in battle you committed seppuku [ritual suicide by slicing the belly, also known as hara-kiri],” Mr Honda says. “That’s in our genes, so people don’t try if they think they might fail.”

And if Japan tamed its tendency to prop up “zombie” companies – hopeless cases kept in motion by state subsidies and banks unwilling to recognise their loans are lost – then there would be more in the kitty to take a punt on new ventures.

Read more at www.ft.com


About charlesvanderhaegen

I am a grandfather of an immensely inspiring family, thanks to the most incredible wife. To satisfy my family's needs, I was for 30 years business entrepreneur, roller coasting between success and failure. 17 years ago I was forced to stop and reflect. I dug into theory and discovered the World out there, that my involvement in Business had kept hidden to me. I feared that I will not escape remaining amidst my trans-disciplinary quest forever, bouncing back and forth from action to theory, always puzzled by Europe's apparent incapacity to free itself from its Institutional/Technological Lock-ins. My horizon opened up when Gunter Pauly, my intimate friend of 35 years, asked me to join him and take charge ZERI's development in Europe. I am now fully engaged alongside Gunter Pauli in the http://www.zeri.org and the @myblueeconomy Networks as CEO of ZERI.EU vzw (Non for Profit association)
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