Christmas Cheers and American Entrepreneurship: Dr. Holland’s Contribution to His Japanese Students and Neighbors
On December 25, 2017, a convoy of 7 Santa Clauses rode on their bicycles and ran along the Kamo riverside, Kyoto, Japan, singing Christmas carols to spread Christmas spirit to Japanese pedestrians.
These “cyclist Santa Clauses” were Dr. Daniel Holland and his family members, who had been staying in Kyoto as part of his Fulbright experience. “Everyone’s favorite activity was interacting with Japanese people,” Dr. Holland recalls, “we were able to see a lot of smiles along the way, as people looked at us, and laughed at us; it was so much fun.”
Dr. Holland, an associate professor teaching entrepreneurship and business strategy in a Utah-based school of business, has always been interested in the Japanese business culture. He remarks, “I know that Japan is one of the most innovative countries, but, interestingly, it is not one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world.” The Japanese government’s particular focus on entrepreneurship encouraged Dr. Holland to go to Japan to teach entrepreneurship, learn about Japan, and reconnect with the country that he had lived in fallen in love with as a teenager.
Subsequently, he flew to Japan with his family, and started teaching entrepreneurship and international business at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies and Doshisha University. In his class, Dr. Holland and his students extensively discussed the features of American entrepreneurship and the manner in which Americans take risks and make decisions.
One program that particularly engaged his students was a business competition conducted by him in his class. He recalls, “I had my students create a project, where they came up with business ideas. At the end of the class, I brought in other teachers and business people who acted as investors. I gave them fake money, and had them go around and talk to each group. They identified the deserving groups and invested money in those businesses.”
At the beginning of his class, his students looked uncomfortable since the class was in English and the “active learning” style was quite new concept for them. It was very different from the styles they had previously been familiar with. “But over time, I became very close to my students. We had a very good relationship and learned a lot together,” he smiles.
During his stay in Japan, Dr. Holland himself learned much about Japanese business culture. He loved the concept of omotenashi (which refers to Japanese hospitality), and was impressed by the Japanese customer service. Today, in his classes in the United States, he discusses how close attention to customer service benefits Japanese businesses.
Being a responsible father himself, he appreciated how the Japanese people prioritized children’s safety; often, he observed young children walking home from school even during nighttime. “I let my daughter ride her bike to her ballet class, which she took while she was in Kyoto, alone at night. That’s not something we would often do in a big city in America. It really empowered her.”
Besides Japan, many countries are often considered business competitors of the United States; however, Dr. Holland believes that different countries can work together and contribute their different knowledge and perceptions for collective benefit. He advises, “Go to other countries with an open mind, be willing to explore, meet as many people as you can, and watch for opportunities to learn from colleagues.” Although some people find it difficult to step out of their comfort zones, Dr. Holland emphasizes how their interactions with people from other countries will help them enjoy new and positive experiences that they should never avoid.
A visit with President Matsuda at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies