Don’t Be Obsessed with Efficiency and Rationalization for Humanity


All the cities become like each other

Before the COVID, I traveled around the world. When it was best in efficiency but worst in working environment, I visited five countries in a week. Such hasty trips got me disoriented. Soon after waking up, I sometimes couldn’t remember where I was. That should be blamed mainly on a lack of sleep (or my poor cognitive skills), but I believe commoditization also has some effect. To be more precise, sceneries get similar anywhere in the world, especially in new development areas and inside new buildings. Some people may give up or even pay no attention. Should we just give up, saying it’s a result of rationalization? I don’t think so. Let me tell you about the short-term crisis that commoditization implies.

Be on guard for commoditization

Everything that can be numerically evaluated will be commoditized. We makers are struggling to differentiate our own products from others, but almost all of our attempts will end up with nothing. That is because more and more people stick to easy (numerical) evaluation criteria such as rationalization and efficiency. Consequently, only the most rationalized and efficient products can survive. There’s no room for differentiation or diversity to survive. Is this the world you want? Aren’t you scared that the same criteria will be applied to ourselves in the future? You may think I’m too pessimistic, but have you ever felt (not jealous but) inferior to someone with higher salary? Was it because you compared yourself with others numerically?

Furniture for human dignity

Our hearts can keep beating only with commodities such as McDonald’s hamburgers, UNIQLO clothes, and IKEA furniture. Can you say that it’s still a human even if s/he lives in such a world? To be honest, I don’t think I can logically or rationally persuade you to buy our chairs, for example. Our chairs are more than five times higher than mass-produced ones in price, and yet can’t be proved to be more than five times more comfortable. Even so, I still recommend our products for you. That is for human dignity not for my business results or a good awakening on my business trip, I swear 😊.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.