Products for Human Dignity

Indignation at commoditization drives me to keep writing. Before the COVID pandemic, I traveled around the world. When it was best in efficiency/worst in working environment, I visited five countries in a week. Such hasty trips get 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 impact. 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, saying it’s commoditization (a result of rationalization), but I want you to be aware of the short-term crisis that commoditization implies.

As it is often explained, 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 because these days, 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, and 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?

Our hearts can keep beating only with commodities such as McDonald’s hamburgers, UNIQLO clothes, and IKEA furniture, but 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. The 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, which 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.

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