Elevate our humanity with advanced digital technology
Uncovering new possibilities with digital ink
I took on the role of President and CEO of Wacom in April 2018. Wacom's mainstay products include creative pen displays and digital pen solutions, and our company has been leading the development and promotion of digital ink technologies and applications. We offer instruments that support creators and artists in more than 150 countries around the world, such as illustrators, designers and animators.
I joined Wacom in 2013 and was engaged in the technology solution business, where we collaborated with various partners to leverage digital pen technology. Since taking over as CEO, I created a new company vision, "Life-long Ink," to complement the existing vision. Wacom has been offering various hardware based around digital pens, but going forward, the data created by digital pens, known as "digital ink," is the next frontier. The digital ink technology we promote enables us to capture and track contexts or situations, such as when and who wrote it, as well as that person's state of mind. By analyzing the handwriting data captured in digital ink, the emotions or concentration level of the writer can be measured. Moreover, by collaborating with various companies in the fields of AI and sensors, data on brainwaves and eyeball movements can be analyzed, and we can observe subtle emotional shifts.
Take education for example. We can capture the learning curves of individual students with digital ink, based on what they write in their notebooks or answer sheets. We can look at students' study habits, such as whether they understood the subject with ease or where they got stuck, and suggest study methods or services as well as the teacher type best suited to each student.
The advancement of digital technology has made it easy for people to connect with one another, as you see with SNSs, but this also causes information overload, and as a side effect, people get exhausted. I emphasize that digital technology should be applied more effectively so that it can enrich our experience by searching deep inside our mind to help us realize our humanity and sharing findings with people closest to us. The concept of Life-long Ink has great potential, as it uses advanced digital technology to elevate our human potential. Through a lifelong relationship with customers, we can offer solutions to further enrich their lives.
It all originated from how I felt as a 19-year-old on campus in spring
My relationship with ICU goes back to my childhood. My house was near ICU, and I have memories of flying paper planes on campus. Perhaps I felt close to ICU because it was like my playground when I was a child, until I took the ICU entrance exam. Fortunately, I was accepted by several colleges, which made me contemplate the college I should attend. It was at this time that I had an opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with a professor at ICU. I listened to what he said, and on the way back home I decided to attend ICU. What he had said was: "ICU enables you to enrich your life."
By going through ICU's core liberal arts program and the multiple perspectives it provides, you can truly enrich your life. The professor's words resonated with me. Those perspectives are more valuable than how many qualifications you acquire. I didn't even know the term liberal arts then, but I intensely thought "the college years are four of the best years of life, and I should spend them at ICU." Above all, I was struck with the way the professor earnestly spoke to me in his own words.
After matriculating at ICU, I noticed how small I was in the grand scheme of the world. At the same time, the impulse "I don't know how, but maybe I can do something great" bubbled up inside me. Even now, I clearly remember that day in the month of May of my first year at ICU. I was 19 and walking around the campus, got excited about doing something big, and swore to never forget this feeling. It is not a feeling of omnipotence, but rather how to make the choices in front of me. Even now as CEO of Wacom, it's been more than 30 years, but that feeling is still vivid in my mind. That is probably where it began.
The identity I built at ICU is the foundation for global business
At ICU, starting with the English language, I learned about international law, human rights, and world peace, and I thought that I would like to work for the United Nations or World Bank. I came to think, however, that I ought to be learning something more down-to-earth by placing myself in the gritty world of business, and there will be plenty of time to think of world peace even after that. It was at that time that I unexpectedly came across Sharp Corporation, which was having placement guidance on campus. I was attracted by the history of the company, how it began from belt buckles before inventing the mechanical pencil and ultimately became successful with consumer electronics. I was also interested in the fact that Sharp is a company from Kansai, the western capital of business in Japan. I also wanted to move away from Tokyo and decided to jump into the center of the business world.
At Sharp, I started from domestic operations and got experience in various fields, such as planning and marketing copiers, fax machines and printers in the U.S. and taking on the challenge of mobile phone business expansion in China. Even though I struggled, I enjoyed the work, but I started to feel restless due to the lack of urgency from staying at the same organization over time. This is not a bad thing, but I recalled the importance of taking on a challenge and the spirit of taking a leap into the unknown, which I learned at ICU. So, I decided to change jobs and moved to Wacom at the age of 43. I remember thinking this fulfils my commitment to ICU when I decided to take the leap from that big organization. The spirit I cultivated at ICU still remains at my core.
When I look back now, ICU encourages people to do things differently and think in unique ways, and this fostered my current outlook: "It's OK to be different from others -- that's a good thing." I always ask myself "What's your identity?" while recognizing how huge this world that we live in is. There were lots of returnees and exchange students, and many classes were held in English in an international environment, where I became aware of my position as a person born and brought up in Japan. This formed a useful foundation for working and mingling with people from different cultures and backgrounds in the U.S. and China later on. If I had to do it all again, I would still choose ICU. If I could speak to my past self, I would say, "It's alright. You're doing the right thing."
If there is anything I can say to students who are thinking of attending ICU, it is to tell them that ICU has a great variety of perspectives and choices, and they can take any approach. If this is the DNA of ICU, it is clearly etched in my memory and in the heart and soul of everything I do in my job. That's my experience, and how you take it is up to you.
Nobutaka (Nobu) IdePresident and CEO Wacom Co. Ltd., Japan
1993 B.A. in Arts and Sciences (Social Sciences)
1995 M.A. in ICU Graduate School of Public Administration
Born in Tokyo in 1970. Joined Sharp Corporation after earning a master's degree from the then Division of Public Administration of ICU's Graduate School. Engaged in product planning and marketing in the U.S. as well as mobile phone market development in China, before joining Wacom in 2013. After serving in various positions including Senior Vice President of the Technology Solution Business Unit, he was appointed as the President and CEO in 2018.