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Creative Career Path

Coming of Age for Free Agents in Japan2013.01.22

    Though the original idea was to encourage flexibility and open communication, the cubicle system now common in offices has ended up a symbol for the very opposite. Even Robert Propst, founder of the cubicle’s precursor “Action Office” in 1968, several decades later said that his system had been twisted into something he called monolithic insanity. FORTUNE MAGAZINE dubbed it Cubicles: The great mistake, saying that what was intended to be an open lounge-like office environment, transformed with cost efficiency over time into bright satanic offices. Ironically, the thing it spawned was ultimately disowned by its inventor.


    Many people intuitively recognize that their best ideas come to them outside of the office, in cafes, while walking, or in the shower. Office meeting rooms and cubicles are rarely cited as being creative spaces. Be that as it may, employers are not likely to release their staff to spend the day at the local cafe.


    Nevertheless, many people long to be released from cubicle consciousness. Ironically, they may find themselves pushed before they are ready to jump.


    In May 2001, Daniel H. Pink wrote an important book, Free Agent Nation: How America’s Independent Workers are Transforming the Way we Live. Although the book was written more than a decade ago, the author has said in recent interviews that what was true then is even more true today. While the book describes the landscape for Free Agents in America, it foreshadowed much of what is now beginning to happen in Japan.


    One of the most profound changes he describes is a shift from vertical loyalty to horizontal loyalty, away from the organization and toward the team, the project, or the profession. Whereas employees used to give loyalty to an employer in exchange for security, now the employees offer talent in exchange for opportunity. Moreover, as companies cut back staff and rely more on contract work and temporary employees, in Japan the Free Agent Nation has come of age.


    There are cultural differences of course, and different sets of social restraints. However, there are remarkable similarities in the shift from the secure salaried organization man to the independent free agent. Big companies cannot afford to keep their former sacred promise of guaranteeing job security, and individual employees cannot afford to believe and act as if such a guarantee will hold.


    It has never been easy to be a Free Agent. The stigma once attached to it has been replaced by a sense of admiration, if you can make it work. There are rules of engagement and disengagement. Daniel Pink describes them as Freedom, Authenticity, and Accountability. It is driven by motivation based on meaningful engagement, as well as the ability to value and sell your services.


    This is not the way that Japanese corporate workers have been trained to think or act, and so the shift will be not be easy. What is needed is a place where people can come to learn about the process, and take practical steps to prepare themselves for the change. The good news is that some of the same skills that will help you to become successful as a Free Agent will also make you more attractive as Talent for hire for a corporation.


    Having long been a citizen of Free Agent Nation, I have decided to create such a place, a Juku or Academy for Japanese people who have become or want to become Free Agents, to enhance or replace their conventional career path.


    The Jizai Juku (自在塾 「ゲリラ的フリーランサー」養成講座), will launch on Mar 16, with preview seminars being held in Japanese on Jan 25, Feb 12, and Feb 26. The website will be launched soon, but the Japanese program prospectus can be downloaded as a PDF file at:


    It will blend elements of Guerrilla Marketing for Freelancers, Wealth Dynamics for Entrepreneurs, and World Class Speaking for Personal Branding. Moreover, as a member it will be possible to learn and participate regardless of where you are located. Although the monthly programs will be conducted in Japanese, much of the content will be based on resources that are originally available in English, exploring the leading edge of thinking in each of those three areas.


    If you are employed but uncertain of your future

    If you have started a business of your own but finding it challenging

    If you want more control over your time and talents

    If you want greater opportunity to increase your income

    If you struggle with marketing and personal branding

    If you want to find your path of least resistance to wealth creation

    If you need to improve your presentation skills

    If you want to meet and network with like-minded Free Agents

    If you want to be more creative and productive in your work


    If you are Japanese or know someone who is Japanese, already working as a Free Agent or seriously interested in becoming one, then the Jizai Juku will inspire and empower you to join the Free Agent Nation.



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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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