We’ve been so busy doing the work, we never stopped to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to tell the story of why — until now. Here’s an in-depth interview with company founder, Andrea Jacques.

When was Kyosei Consulting International started?
Kyosei Consulting International, Inc. was federally incorporated in 2001, but I started doing the kind of work Kyosei has become known for as early as 1990.

It’s been a long ride, then.

Yes (laughs). And there’s been a few bumps and bruises not to mention wrinkles, but my purpose has always been clear. So in a way it’s been effortless.

What was your inspiration for the name ‘Kyosei?’

The inspiration for Kyosei came long before I actually discovered the Japanese term ‘Kyosei.’ Early on, I knew in my heart what I wanted to achieve, there simply was no English word for it. It wasn’t until I went abroad to study sustainable business and economic development in Japan [Editor’s note: Andrea Jacques ultimately spend 5 years immersed in Japan] that the idea coalesced into reality for me. Ironically though, while the ‘feel’ of the work I should do became imminently clear to me in Japan, it wasn’t until I got back to Canada that the term ‘Kyosei’ came into my life.

So early on, you already had some sense of what you wanted to achieve?

Yes. My background had been in career development and helping people find work that they love, and also in helping organizations become great places to work. This was way back in the early 90’s. I’d already been doing that kind of work for five years at that point in time (prior to arriving in Japan) and I was intrigued that there might be some connection.

Connection? How so?

I started thinking about sustainable business and economic development and I realized there was a strong correlation between helping people find their rightful niche and helping organizations tread lightly on the planet. Nowadays, this is almost inherently obvious to most young people but it was a hard sell a few years back bordering on ‘aerie fairy.’

And you found this link in Japan? Tell us about that.

Because I was living in Japan, it was inevitable that I would soon learn their word for harmony, or ‘Wa’ as they call. Wa translated means “harmony, peace, balance, sum, total” and it is also the oldest recorded name for Japan used in conjunction with another word Yamato. The concept is huge in Japan and entrenched in their business culture and society.

Can you expand on that?

In direct contrast to here in the West where it feels like it’s every person for themselves, in Japan there’s very much a mindset of the group before the individual. I really liked this sentiment, and soon saw it as being key to sustainable business and economic development.

In contrast, in the West we deify individuality. We espouse finding one’s individual passion and reward individual achievement in entrepreneurism. The group is rarely present. It’s all about the lone wolf. The hero. At least that’s the mystique of the legend our media builds. Apple is a big company for example, but we seem to think it was all done by Steve Jobs. While he may have held the torch of the vision, I’m guessing some of the sixty-three thousand other employees must have had some impact as well!

The reality of success is that there must be a clear middle ground. A place where individual is king and a place where group is king.

A meeting of East and West philosophies?

Yes. In the most simplest sense, when you effectively merge both Eastern and Western ideas and they coexist you automatically find Kyosei.

I guess then, the question really is how do you get the group is king dynamic of the East to ‘play nice’ with the individualist, lone wolf perspective of the West.

Exactly. For me the answer to that is found when the individual knows their passion and is aligned with their purpose. An organization of self-actualized individuals like that can’t help but succeed for they don’t have any of the limits of ego and fear everyone else is confronting.

You mentioned the term Kyosei came later. Tell us about that.

Yes, as I hinted at earlier, I didn’t actually discover the word Kyosei until I had returned to Canada and was getting ready to incorporate my company.

That must have been a little stressful.

It was. I was absolutely clear what the company would be about but had no real word to capture the essence of our vision.I guess you could say I had company naming aphasia (laughs).

So what did you do?

Well, I was doing some research and I came across the word Kyosei while studying about the outstanding sustainability initiatives of Canon. That’s where I came across the word and I thought “oh my, that’s perfect!”

And that clinched it for you? Weren’t you worried about naming your company a potentially difficult-to-say Japanese term.

Terrified (laughs). From a marketing point of view I know there are huge challenges with having a foreign word that most people can’t pronounce when they read it. So I went through a lot of soul-searching about whether or not that was the word and I did all kinds of name searches about Synergy Consulting, Symbiosis consulting, Common Good Consulting, etcetera — all these different kinds of words. In the end, I just thought nothing said it like Kyosei — living and working together for the common good.

So the name thing worked out okay?

To be honest, a different name like Kyosei has actually been a great ice breaker in conversation. There’s so many stuffy company names out there. I’d challenge more people to name their company with gusto. If a company name doesn’t pull your heart strings you should probably name it something else because you’ll be using the name an awful lot.

And the company logo?

Once the name was confirmed, we went through about 20 or so different variations of logo and font with our graphic designer. But like the name itself, once we clinched it, we clinched it. Today, the logo and Kanji have evolved subtly and serve as a platform for a growing brand. We just launched our sister site KyoseiCoaching.com and it uses a variation of the same logo on a different color palette and visual theme. My husband, who’s a bit of a marketing guru, claims that Kyosei has major legs, whatever that means.

What was it like to be a foreign woman starting a business consultancy in Japan?

When I started back in 1995, I was talking about job satisfaction and employee engagement and pitching things like inspiring passion in the workplace to Japanese companies and multinationals in Japan like Coca-Cola. But because I was a foreign woman in what was (in some ways) a very traditional male dominant business society, I kept hitting up against a built-in gender bias leading to confusion about what I actually offered.

They would ask, “what do you do?” and I would reply in Japanese, “I help leaders inspire passion in the workplace.” Unfortunately, because my response was out of their frame of reference and colored perhaps by my gender, the automatic lingual assumption was that I was some sort of matchmaker (what they call an omiai) for relationships. This was a different passion then I meant and clearly not the case! So you can imagine the confusion at first.

Ultimately, I hit upon using the word ‘Gambaru’ (which essentially means to seize the day and persevere no matter what). I basically said I help individuals to be better at Gambaru and that got me a little bit further in dialogue!

I think had I actually tried to stay in Japan and really try to become part of the Japanese society proper, it would’ve been very challenging being a woman and a foreigner. But (at the time) my only strategy for coping with these challenges, since really I had no other choice, was ultimately to play ‘selectively dumb’ and be very self-effacing when confronted with occasional unfair prejudicial or gender biased treatment which was omnipresent. Then later, when the situational tension had abated, bulldoze forward and get the contract! You could liken this to sort’ve a ‘naïve Columbo’ approach to international business relations, but it worked for me and allowed everyone to save face which is a very big part of Japanese society.

But this outside perspective ultimately proved fruitful?

Yes. There’s a lot of work to be done in cross-cultural communication, so a lot of the contracts I had were dealing with senior male Japanese managers who were going overseas and needed to know what to expect. I would in essence, serve as a ‘culture shock’ for them. Preparing them for overseas dialogue and the cultural minutiae of the West.

Sort’ve a Boot Camp for business relations with the West?

Exactly. And I loved it.

That must of been really valuable for them?

Yes. I held no punches and the Japanese were appreciative for that. In contrast, there were many others who would try to do things ‘the Japanese way’ – lessening the culture shock, avoiding uncomfortable circumstances to try to keep the Japanese companies happy…

But that wasn’t your philosphy?

No. I thought, you know what, they [sic] (the Japanese) are going to be going to Germany or the Philippines or Canada or the US and facing very different cultures and very different ways of thinking and working — they needed a ‘real’ and authentic experience that would challenge them and their management style.

Sounds like a lot of fun.

It was! We did crazy things in some of the courses I taught; we would teach them about hiring people, inspiring people, etc. And we did some role-plays where they had to fire me and I would pretend to break down in tears, or I would blow up in a rage at them just to see how they would handle it because those are things they would typically never encounter in Japanese society.

Now of course crying’s not necessarily a typical thing you encounter in Western society either, but when I was working with the Japanese in acclimating them to the West, we really maximized the ‘trial by fire’ because our timelines were tight. We wanted them to be ready for anything and not thrown off by any hooks (we) their business adversaries might throw.

So despite the challenges to you a foreigner in Japan, you somehow found a way to succeed?

Yes. This is going to sound very ‘Matrix the movie,’ but I basically didn’t allow myself to see the barriers and so they weren’t really there for me.

Wow. That is Matrix.

Yes (nods). I just picked where my strengths were and pushed there. This is what we here at Kyosei preach even today. I focused on what my strengths were. I focused on my contribution. And I didn’t listen to the limitations. You know it’s interesting, the Japanese people are very much about the blanket statement ‘we Japanese,’ ie. this is how we Japanese do it, this is the Japanese way. As a result, a lot of the foreigners I know were very frustrated by this. In contrast, I was respectful about doing things the Japanese way, but at the same time I was like, well, ‘Me Andrea’ and this is how I do it, so let’s appreciate each other’s way of doing things as human beings. I’m sure this was a bit frustrating for them, but also it was quite entertaining and a good cultural exposure as well! You know ultimately all traditions and even culture itself are just routines practised ad nauseum until they become part of the rote societal memory, but they are really just choices we make. While this works for the large part and provides the discipline for groups of people and societies to excel, we owe it to ourselves to reflect on this if we’re ever to create true sustainability and harmony.

What’s the Difference Between East and Western Business Philosophies?

I think the main difference between the East and West is that the Western business philosophy is focused much more (or at least has been focused much more) on individual achievement and individual opportunity.We’re more cutthroat as a result. In Japan, it is much more focused on team and group collaborations. Even amongst companies within an industry. Contrast this to the West, where you’ll see companies in an industry are absolutely direct competitors never giving an inch.

In Japan, competition exists as well, but the idea is much more malleable. In Japan, they have a concept called ‘Keiretsu’ which is essentially the idea of big interlocking companies often centered around a bank, working together to more effectively compete against the outside world. There’s still a competition element, but they realize there can be more strength and benefit in working together.

There’s positives and negatives to this because the Eastern business culture (as a by-product of this mindset) has been criticized for lacking true creativity in terms of innovation, yet has obviously been able to hold their own within the realm of manufacture. Likewise, because of the group mindset, the Japanese have been lauded for ideas such as ‘Kaizen’ – the idea of constant and never-ending improvement. In essence, they take an idea or process and make it a little better and a little better and little better over time. And this is done as a group, largely independent of the need to recognize the individual. While the gradual iterations and improvements are often slower than the revolutions we in the West seek, they are ceaseless and pronounced. This is perhaps why so many Japanese products have taken the lead over their western counter parts, which, until very recently, took the ‘if it isn’t broken don’t fix it’ mindset.

But not to knock our culture, individualism in the West has it’s own tremendous merits as well.

How so?

I think we’re much better at recognizing the contribution of people. This in turn spurs maverick thinking that leads to more revolutionary innovation as the fruits of ones labor is generally bigger.

In Japan, there’s so much focus on keeping the team together that if any individual has a brilliant idea, it’s often squashed before it has a chance to get out in order to keep the harmony for the team. It’s very protocol driven.

That’s why here at Kyosei, we preach the importance of a true East-West middle ground. We need to collaborate effectively AND be mavericks. To paraphrase Einstein, we can’t solve a problem by using the same level of thinking that was used to create it. We need both philosophies combined. To be for a moment grandiose, the world depends on this.

Is this what Kyosei is about?

Exactly. Kyosei is the practice of living and working together for the common good. This extends not just to businesses and communities, but to leaders and everyone at every level of society. I think sometimes when people think of the common good they have an automatic assumption that self-sacrifice is required, this is very much the case in Japan. But Kyosei is not about that. The common good includes your own good, too.

In the West, we tend to the more individualist perspective, which, at it’s worst is selfish and at it’s best is what author Ayn Rand coined as ‘self-full.’


Essentially the idea that you can’t help others until you’ve helped yourself. To use a loose example of this, think of an airplane’s safety document. The instructions always tell you to put your air mask on first before helping your child with theirs. This is not to be cruel, this is to ensure that you’re in a fully cognizant state and able to help your child to escape. Another way to look at it is like a teapot. How do you fill everyone’s cup if you have not first taken the time to first fill your own pot? By filling our own teapot with true purpose, we are better able to be of service to others. That is what Kyosei (specifically Kyosei Coaching) is about for individuals. For organizations, Kyosei takes a different tact; all of our programmes, training and consulting ultimately help organizations to be naturally more enlightened as to the needs of their people – not just paying lip service because it’s good PR. This in turn pays huges dividends for the organizations, allowing them to have more engaged people, who stay longer, work harder and create more for the common good. Truly it’s a win-win.

So where does the practice of Kyosei start?

It starts with a simple idea. We need to understand that each individual is a building block of the healthy whole. Not separate. Not better. But part of the organism as a whole.

Then, in order to practice Kyosei, you have to start with your own integrity. By integrity I mean the alignment between who you are and what you do; understanding your core purpose; finding your niche; knowing your strengths and your gifts and your talents. This is an alignment imperative that is critical to achieve before seeking Kyosei. First and foremost, you must understand who you are and align that with everything you do. Whether it be what you do for work, how you treat your family, how you clean your house, what you eat, how you exercise, etc. Having this type of alignment is so critical because whenever you’re out of alignment you experience stress and ‘dis-ease’ and you have energy leaks.

So creating alignment is the ultimate way to conserve your personal energy and achieve personal sustainability. This is incredibly important. One of the things we hear all the time at Kyosei during our initial client conversations is that people are stressed and want more work-life balance.

Why is that so endemic today?

I think it’s because our society is now overloaded with possibilities. This has numbed us to a point of information paralysis and malaise. Instead of being boondoggled, you could say our society is ‘boongoogled.’ The world is now one big information buffet, but our minds have not evolved at the same rapid pace so we’re drawn to anything that makes our information bandwidth more manageable.

And Kyosei can help with that?

We can. The practice of Kyosei and our lifework integrity model allows you to find misalignments that help you get to the heart of what your unique ‘good thing is.’ That’s our foundation. Once you understand what your unique ‘good thing’ is, ie. what your passions are, how you want to design your life and work, you’re in a much stronger place.

When you’re strong and aligned as an individual and know what you stand for, you’re far more likely to stand up and speak out and not be afraid. This then extends to integrity with natural systems and the natural order of which we are all a part. Collectively many of us sort’ve have blinders on – ignoring the research and facts right in front of us if it challenges our own basic needs. We rely upon our governments and companies to lead us but they too are challenged ethically by their own needs. Ultimately then, all leadership starts at the individual level, we must first realign ourselves before we can have the prospective and means to effect others. From that real leadership and change is born.

I’ve heard you talk about creating a new vision of work, what is that?

Let’s first start with what the ‘existing’ vision of work or for lack of a better word, ‘old’ vision of work is. Basically the current vision of work held by most people is the statement ‘work is a necessary evil’ — and that is not what we want.

Of course this vantage is not sustainable. You could say work (or our vision of it) is not working anymore. And so the new vision of work is first and foremost contingent on each person’s understanding of their individual passions and finding or creating work (as an entrepreneur) that allows them to use their strength and give their gifts to the world through their work on a day-to-day basis.

There’s tons of research out there that shows that people who are using their strengths and doing what they love on a day-to-day basis are more productive, more creative, healthier, more energetic and higher performing. So that’s the new vision of work we espouse. And the benefits aren’t just specific to the individual but to their organizations as well. When individuals are aware of their passions (and by passions I mean values, strengths, purpose and their own vision for where they will go in their life) and when their work is aligned with this, then they have the energy and creativity to really contribute to their organization in an empowered way.

The new vision of work is about understanding that it’s not just the production line anymore. We moved from the industrial age to the information age to the age of transformation. An age where the main work being done is not just about producing more and more goods, the main work is increasingly shifting towards transforming our society for the better.

There is a shift to conscious capitalism; transforming the way work is done, the way goods are produced, the way services are provided. But to facilitate this, we need people who are capable of societal transformation and we need organizations that are capable of transformation that are not driven by the top down but instead harness the passions of their employees from the bottom up.

When the organization as a whole is aware of that and when all of the systems of the organization are driven by their employee’s passions, values, strengths, their purpose or vision (versus being driven by their shareholders sometimes contradictory needs) true greatness can be achieved.

So a new vision of work is about producing genuine fundamental intrinsic value. And that value should be consistent with the actual organic growth required by the company — and no more.  It should not be dictated by some ego-driven, caffeine-fueled Angel Investor, pushing for a glorious exit strategy and ultimately hurting many more people then they help. It’s full-cycle accounting. We need to take into account all of the costs, long-term and short, environmental and societal as well as profit motive and the societal impact. Basically it’s about doing a little more homework to create lasting business legacies that make the world better not worse.

Want to make your workplace more Kyosei? Contact us today.