18 August 2020

Part 2 of an interview between Shigesato Itoi and Satoru Iwata about being a company president.

「ほぼ日」の「社長に学ぶ!」シリーズを読んでいる。 原作の日本語こちら:https://1101.com/president/iwata02.html

Going for just “What they wanted to say” + “Easy for natives to read”, deviating from literal translations if necessary. Moreso than part 1 at least!

Woops by the way. I’m Australian so certain z’s have turned into s’s.

読むシステム: How to read

Shigesato Itoi’s dialogue is indented like this 糸井重里の言葉はこのふうに

And Satoru Iwata’s dialogue isn’t indented 岩田聡の言葉はこのふうに

Learn From the President! Part 2:
Deciding never to blame others.

Even though Iwata-san was one of the founding members, the folks who pleaded for you to become president seemed to have prepared a crooked throne of sorts for you to sit on, didnt they.

Well, there was nobody else. This is just something I always do, but whether or not I like or hate something, if “the most logical course of action is for me to do it” then I’ll do it with complete conviction.

Then in the future, this is something you’ve mentioned when you’ve become the president of Nintendo too, right?

Well that time I was nominated so I wouldn’t say exactly the same thing.

But given the chance that you’re someone who wants to run away when you’re nominated for that, the importance of conviction based on logic still rings true.

What comes across my mind is if perhaps if instead of becoming president of HAL Laboratory, Iwata-san would have ended up persuing his interests instead hmm?


If I had completely different encounters or circumstances, I think my fate would be absolutely different. As you prophesise, a life spent persuing my interests.

So, it’s like “If you spare me some extra time, I’ll spend it exclusively doing things I like”.

I suppose I’m that kind of person at my core.

Naturally, If left to my own machinations, I’ll work on something interesting. Sometimes I’ll show everyone around me what I’ve worked on, and hopefully I can impress my audience. I’m a person who likes to delight others.

I suppose with programming software, coming to grips with software by breaking it down into parts AND seeing it as a whole seems to be an enjoyable aspect.

However, if instead its something like becoming company president, you’ve had balance the “parts and whole” against an actual social structure now.

It wasn’t that I came into it with zero management experience.

As you might expect with around ten people in the development branch, ten people grants you a handful of personalities, which will end up with a handful of mixed feelings. Each individual wants to do what’s best, but everyone’s idea of “best” differs ever so slightly.

If you want the group to successfully reach some common goal, you must organise.

In such times, when you say “lets do it like this!”, some teammates are going to understand immediately, some are going to be opposed, and some are going to misunderstand entirely… theres always a variety in store for you.

Once you’re faced with that sort of situation, my train of thought is that:

“We’ve begun work to accomplish something and right off the bat some of us understand and some of us don’t. How can we pool together our talents and head straight for the goal?”

During development I can’t help but always ask that question.


So, development was different compared to long ago when you can create something alone. Soon, it became the teamwork between 3 people, then 5 people, then between 10 people, and so on until teams of 20 and 50. I’ve witnessed that very change unfold.

I later found out that theorising about structures of organisations had been a proper branch of study, but at the time I was surely due to pick that up via trial and error instead.

Well, trial and error the only skill I was abnormally confident in however. It was during that time, by experimenting with trial and error when I decided “If communication isn’t going well, you never blame others”.


“If people don’t understand your message, and can’t empathise with you, you just haven’t tried your best yet”. At some point in time this became a mantra.

If it’s not going well, you must change yourself.

If you make the effort to search for a method catered towards each person that can make them understand and empathise with you, you’ll definetly find it.

Thats why even now if some relations aren’t proceeding smoothly, I seek whatever the cause of the problem is within myself. However, it’s obviously tempting to just pin the other party as simply stubborn… writing them off as an idiot isn’t hard either.

Yeah, speaking of Iwata-san, you really haven’t ever opened your mouth to blame someone huh.

Not a single utterance of blame was a self-imposed decision.

Im not sure when I decided, but there was certainly a period where I would have personally decided that.

The period that matches that would be when we at HAL Laboratory couldn’t say our developers “are all outstanding in communication and understanding”.

Its likely because I thought that, if I didn’t decide to “never blame others” then the work isn’t going to get any closer to being finished.

There are some developers who find programming opened the possibility that “one person could control the whole world”, and I think this kind of omnipotent feeling becomes what draws them in. Thinking about it, Iwata-san is the same, right?

That was definetly true at the beginning. After all, back then one person alone could still handle everything.

“Without requiring any cooperation, you can shape the world in your image”. When this kind of appeal is felt among all the developers in the same game company, everyone’s going to think in their heart that “the one who’s king, is me!”… its inevitable that clashes are born from this.

Engineers and Artists are bound to feel the same too. Because the kind of confidence that makes you believe “I’m the most skilled by far”, is the pretentiousness you need to bring out your full efforts.

Programmers are going to feel their way of developing software is the best, and will thus proceed to make software in that manner. Besides, if you discover that you’re wrong, you can always change your code later.

But when these like-minded people are developing together, sometimes a pair of different coding practices create incompatible software. Thats when people are going to say “it didn’t work with my code so I need you to change your code”.

Suppose that if three artists had to work on the same drawing, their artistic styles might not match. Therefore if you want to put things together as a single product, everyone needs to agree to conform to the same style.

If you do that, theres going to be a clash. Of course that is why it’s said that creation is an expression of the ego.

A group of people all trying to express their ego aren’t going to effortlessly come to an agreement about their thoughts.

Everyone is working passionately and optimistically so they’ll think “I’m right”, right? So if everyone wants to take things in different directions, but nobody thinks they’re wrong, how do you sort it out in a way thats good for everyone?…

…So in some way, software development happened to double as managerial training too.

Wow, so training began in such a terrifying scene.

end of part 2

→ Part 3 is here