The conception of a man: Who became a wunderkind of the times after the collapse of Dot-com bubble, leading an extraordinary company in Tokyo, Japan.

Featured on BUSINESS WEEKLY, May 16, 2011

The conception of a man: Who became a wunderkind of the times after the collapse of Dot-com bubble, leading an extraordinary company in Tokyo, Japan.
Things that have been called as “common sense” among conventional companies are not taking for granted in his company. There’s no superiors or people placed under, even CEO committed to be an assistance in case. The man says that’s how the company should be like.
Text by LuYian


 The 34-years-old is CEO of teamLab Inc. Inoko Toshiyuki. The worldly famous Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami praises Inoko as “gifted one”. Tannawa Keizo, the managing director of Towers Watson Japan, also refers him as “incredibly mad”.
 teamLab, the company established by Inoko right after the Dot-com bubble burst, has been both applauded and trashed by people around them yet. The more we get to know the history of teamLab, the words of Tannawa gets more convincing.
 Today, 250 employees are working at teamLab in Tokyo and they also have an affiliate company at Shanghai. They don’t have walls in office that divide rooms, divisions that divide works, and particular formulas for working process. teamLab creates various products such as; interactive hangers, stage performances, designs for café and so on. Therefore, their business clients are also with lots of variations such as; The Louvre Museum, the hosts of furniture exhibition in Milano, and Japanese electronics companies.
 Inoko is the one who created the company with this whole new style. He is so-called elite graduates of Tokyo University. Inoko choose not to get employment, but established website publisher with four other classmates instead. However in 2001, the very year he started up the company, Dot-com bubble bursts (also known as IT bubble) so that his company could work for just making websites of some deserted hotels. Even so, 5 years later, thanks to his unique conception of works, Inoko was promoted to a directive chair of Sankei Digital, an affiliate company of Sankei Shimbun Co., Ltd. Sankei’s news community site called ”Iza!” got huge hits, it right after Inoko became the director.
 Inoko and his followers believe; one great idea of technology has a potential to increase the extra values on ANYTHING. Their specialized skills allow them to promote an idea that no one could expect before, so that they are capable to offer a solid solution to various companies. Some of their ideas were not very welcomed by their clients, because they sometime seem a bit ridiculous (or too fresh). For example, one clothing company asked teamLab for the construction of a new store, and teamLab’s solution was a “hanger”. Not just a hanger, but “interactive hanger.” The way it works is that every time a shopper picks up a hanger, a computer screen above the item displays relevant pictures. This idea comes from the data of ecommerce that clothes provided with a picture of models sales better than others. The clothing company, however, showed no interests in the hanger, and idea of “interactive Hanger” has gone for awhile. Few years later, another famous clothing company decided to buy and use those hangers in stores.

“Executives” are nothing valuable

 teamLab consists of a wide diversity of specialists including; Programmers, Network Engineers, Designers, Robot Engineers, Architects, CG Animators, Mathematicians and more. In each project, appropriate person become a chief director and choose 2-10 people for his/her team mates. This way of forming project teams allows teamLab to come up with great new ideas. “’Executive’ means nothing. They just talk boastfully.” Inoko, a gentle and calm man, say things a bit surprising. He believes, from now on, merging of technology and creativity becomes crucial to survive for every company, and it is hard thing to do if the company has working divisions that are completely separated, company with old system.
 “Recently, the differences between hard engineers and art directors become less and less.” said Inoko. Up till now, people in technology division could concentrate on how to make a car to drive faster or a table to be tougher. However, things changed as iPhone tells; it’s much more important to concentrate on satisfying user’s aesthetic values. “People want cool and amusing technology. Hard engineers need to understand the quality that designers and soft engineers are obsessed with. And make them into reality as possible. This is reason for Inoko’s obsession with letting his company to have no division, no executives or managers. Instead, teamLab has a field where engineers and designers can work together.
 Sometimes, Inoko permitted to be an assistant. He wants all employees to discuss free and open, without any hesitation to superiors. Inoko’s conception of work figures prominently in the teamLab system, which is totally different from those of traditional Japanese companies.
 In April 2011, teamLab had opened art gallery in Taiwan. At the gallery, Inoko and other members were discussing about how to put the blocking chairs as they are art products. Inoko was just one of them that no one has an absolute right for decision. The shared all ideas and worked hard for creating the better output. Inoko was not “special one” among them that he had great relationships with his employees. They could even make fun of him when Inoko said something weird or act like weird.
 Definitely, the teamLab is the company with a new style which established after the collapse of IT bubble. And Inoko Toshiyuki is might be the one of new ideal CEO.