Ikigai (生き甲斐]) is a Japanese Concept Meaning "A Reason for Being"

Stuart Sinclair - December 14, 2015
Innovation Management

Everyone, according to the Japanese, has an Ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self.

If ever there was a formula for some of the greatest innovators in business, this diagram is probably it! It sets out the elements required for a purpose in life, your ‘reason to get up in the morning’. Most formulas for inventiveness or innovation would include the requirements for professional skills, a love of the subject area and a need for a solution, but miss the bottom section, “That which you can be paid for”.

This fourth circle encourages individuals to combine a profession and a vocation - and still be able to pay the mortgage. For businesses, it allows companies to offer worthwhile, in-demand products or services, and make the profits required to create them.

Entrepreneur James Dyson embodies much of what contributes to Ikigai (pronounced ee-ki-guy), turning his industrial design skills into a multi-million pound business. Bill Gates saw an original need for software, fulfilled the need, and now uses the profits from that insight to address much bigger world issues. Elton John has used his passion for performing pop music to fund his mission for addressing AIDS and gay rights.

Taking those examples, it seems to suggest that if you can initially achieve Ikigai through a balance of all four elements, it enables you to move towards the achievement of greater Vocation and Mission elements. However, these may be the very elements missing from an employee engagement program, denying employees the ability to discover a mission or vocation within their working environment.

A failure to innovate can hinder the success of any organisation. That’s why we  created our own innovation white paper – to help you flourish in an  ever-changing economic climate.

Most employee networks will enable employees to apply their interest (That which you love) and their skills (That which you are good at). With regards to payment, they are paid for a base level of engagement simply by being an employee, and most would consider themselves professional in terms of their job role.

However, expressing a vocation or mission through engaging in business-based projects and challenges might be more tricky.

So, here’s the real challenge; to allow employees not just to respond to business-focused challenges, but also to mission-inspired challenges. An employee may see that a project they are working on could benefit the wider community, but not be financially viable as a product or service. Using an employee network, they can ‘float’ the idea and get feedback.If it garners support, it can be taken up and issued as a Challenge, or developed as an Idea, or even become part of the business’ own goals. It becomes a Mission that is very definitely possible.

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