Kyosei, a personal practice

By on May 1, 2013

Living in Japan, one of the characteristics of the culture that I found most fascinating was the desire and ability to function harmoniously as a group. Far more so than in Western culture, Japanese culture promotes the long-term interests of the group over the short-term interests of the individual. They even have a word for it : kyosei.
The word kyosei is made up of two characters “kyo” 共(together) and “sei” 生(to live). It was first introduced as an academic term in biology to refer to symbiosis. In the 1980s Canon’s chairman, Ryuzaburo Kaku, adopted its use in a business context as a core of Canon’s corporate philosophy, focusing on mutualism, the win-win form of symbiosis, and defining kyosei as “living and working together for the common good”.
Kaku’s philosophy of kyosei was instrumental in developing the Caux Round Table, an international network of principled business leaders working to promote moral capitalism. In 1994 this group formally launched the CRT Principles for Business, a comprehensive set of ethical norms for businesses operating across multiple cultures that had the practice of kyosei at their core. These principles have been published in twelve languages, used in business school curricula worldwide, and are widely recognized as the foundational principles of the corporate social responsibility movement. (For more details on the CRT principles visit www.cauxroundtable.org).
While documents like the CRT Principles support organizations in practicing kyosei, it is ultimately up to the individual employees to put them into practice. The Ten Commandments tell us not to commit adultery, steal, lie or covet. Despite these being
widely recognized as sound principles of ethical conduct, many who would consider themselves to be essentially good, moral citizens engage in these behaviours anyway.
Why? Like any other rules, they are open to interpretation and interpretation tends to favor self-interest. Knowing what to do is only half of the battle. Doing it is far more difficult. This is why kyosei, at its core, is a personal practice, not a business one. My understanding of what it takes to practice kyosei on a personal level is by no means complete, but the following ideas offer a place to sart:
1) Seek Knowledge: Thriving on the common good requires that we seek out information, principles and guidelines about how to build a world that generates sustainable prosperity and well-being for all living things.
2) Open Your Mind – And Your Heart: Creating agreement around this knowledge, however, is a difficult task, as there are many competing schools of thought about how to achieve this. The CRT principles, for example, focus on businesses who assume globalization is a virtue. Other organizations such as www.elocal.com would argue that production and consumption must be more localized in order for society to thrive. To truly be able to practice kyosei you must be willing to entertain the possibility that everything you believe is right could be wrong! Consider the changes that technology has made possible in even the last few decades that would have been
considered pure science fiction to our grandparents, you might find it easier to suspend judgement and entertain the possibilities of completely new ways of being.
3) Be Mindful of Motivations:  We all have legitimate needs like food, clothing, shelter, safety, belonging and love that, when unmet, have a huge impact on our ability to take the higher ground. A person on welfare is likely to invest time and energy in sourcing ethically produced products. Yet this is not an excuse. Examples abound of people who had legitimate reason to take the low road yet chose not to. For most people in the developed world, however, it is their egos’ need for security, comfort, power, status, and control that impact their ability to make kyosei choices. Each individual must develop the ability to examine how their needs and self-interests
might be impacting their choices – and set aside those immediate needs in pursuit of more long-term rewards of creating a society where everyone can thrive.
4) Energize with Alignment: With the ever-increasing speed of change in life and work, individuals now more than ever require a solid foundation.  Cultivating an understanding of your personal purpose, values, strengths and vision provides this foundation. Aligning with them provides the ultimate source of sustainable and infinitely renewable energy. The more centered we are with what is required to fulfill our own personal potential, the more energy we have available to help others fulfill theirs.
I sincerely hope you will take time to cultivate the above practices over the coming months and join the movement toward a world where everyone thrives. Please let me know about the successes and challenges you experience and I will post and comment on them on my blog.

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on Amazon.com). She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at www.kyoseiconsulting.com