– Kazuo Inamori, a well recognized figure in business management, leadership and philosophy, and an inspiration for many other business figures passed away at 90.
Charismatic business leader Kazuo Inamori, founder of Kyocera, left for his heavenly abode on August 24 at 90. Inamori, a native of Kagoshima Prefecture, established Kyocera in 1959 in Kyoto when he was 27. The firm started with 28 staffers, but eventually turned into a major electronics and parts maker boasting more than 80,000 employees globally.
Kazuo Inamori, one of Japan’s most influential and respected business leaders, also co-founded DDI in 1984, a predecessor of KDDI, to facilitate competition in the telecommunications market, then dominated by NTT. KDDI is now one of the top three mobile phone carriers in Japan.
After Japan Airlines went bankrupt in 2010, Inamori was asked by then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to lead and turn around the ailing airline. Inamori accepted the job with no compensation and tackled JAL’s reconstruction as chairman for about three years.
Under Inamori’s leadership and management reforms, JAL experienced a revival and went public again less than three years after its bankruptcy.
Inamori is known for his creation of the “amoeba management method,” under which workers are divided into small groups called amoeba.
Each group is provided with real-time figures on their business operations and achievements, and they are encouraged to work as if they are an independent entity within the company.
Some firms formerly led by Inamori — including Kyocera, KDDI and JAL — that have adopted the amoeba system have successfully grown into major players in their fields.
“I have spent many years in management and know from my experience that it’s important to have a system to allow you to grasp details of real-time figures and results so that all employees can pitch ideas to improve business operations,” Inamori told a news conference in October 2010 when he was restructuring JAL.
Inamori, who was also an ordained Buddhist monk, published numerous books on business management, leadership and philosophy, and inspired many other business figures.
Sachio Semmoto, one of Japan’s best-known entrepreneurs and a fellow co-founder of KDDI’s predecessor, told The Japan Times in an interview in 2018 that Inamori changed his life.
“Meeting with such a great business leader was the trigger. I don’t think I would’ve founded (DDI) if I hadn’t met Mr. Inamori,” Semmoto said, adding that Inamori taught him a great deal about business leadership.
Inamori ran a business school between 1983 and 2019, and spent his personal fortune on philanthropy.
In 1984, he spent about ¥20 billion to establish the Inamori Foundation. The organization gives awards to individuals who have made remarkable contributions to society and offers financial support for unique research.