A Sound Japanese Concept for Living in These Times of Isolation

I was sorting through office files two days ago and found a copy of the paper by Mr. Ryuzaburo Kaku, former CEO of Canon Inc., on his ethical concept of kyosei. Kyosei was applied in the creation of our Principles for Business, along with the concepts of human dignity from Catholic Social Teachings and stewardship from the Protestant tradition.

Literally, Kyosei translates into English as “symbiosis,” how living organisms can find well-being through dependency on others – a living together. Kaku-san took this biological concept and applied it to companies as living organisms in social and economic ecosystems. He pointed out that companies are dependent on their stakeholders – customers for cash and employees for products and services – and reciprocally, such stakeholders have a “stake” in the success of the company.

Kyosei, thus, becomes an ethic for living well – we prosper in relationships where we contribute to the good of others and they contribute to our good.

While our current circumstances of self-quarantining, social-distancing, restrictions on travel and lockdowns of cities are isolating us as never before, this is also a moment to apply the ethic of Kyosei.

It is a time to recognize and be grateful for our dependence on others, either right now or by recalling our circumstances before the emergency when it was easier to overlook those who contributed to our success and happiness.

It is also a time to look out for others and be of help and good cheer to them.

Kaku-san’s paper can be read here.