This is the interview of Dr. Fujita, CEO of the CHITOSE Group to find out more about the appeal of working at CHITOSE “now” and to encourage more people who match CHITOSE’s culture to apply.
Tomohiro Fujita, Chief Executive Officer of CHITOSE Group
Graduated from the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo. While he takes the helm of “CHITOSE Group,” a family of biotechnology companies, from the perspective of what humankind should be doing in the 21st century from the perspective of 1000 years from now, his life is being swayed by the companies he has created. He enjoys thinking about “biological evolution,” “management,” and “soccer.” All three are structured in such a way that “individuals seeking to maximize their own merits group together to form organizations, and the organizations are in fierce competition with each other for survival,” and he guesses the realization in his mid-20s that he liked such structures led him to his current career.
What kind of presence does CHITOSE aim to be in the world?
Up to now, we have been steadily accumulating research and development efforts, but now that we have a system in place to compete with the world in microalgae, antibody drugs, and agriculture, we will enter a phase in which we will raise significant funds to produce biotech products on a larger scale. Our goal is to go from a research and development company to a production and sales company of bio-products, and eventually to become a leader in the bio-economy that everyone in the world is familiar with.
What do you think is the attraction of working at CHITOSE?
In Japan, there are probably very few companies outside of the biotech field that are in a phase of rapid expansion. I believe that being in an ever-expanding environment is a valuable life experience. I have the image that we have been growing at about 20% per year for the past 10 years, and now I have the perception that we are about to take off from the runway and fly high. This has been the case in the past too, and will change more rapidly than ever. I don’t think there are many things more interesting than keeping everyone together to watch the ever-changing scenery.
What experience can people gain at CHITOSE?
In the world of the future, especially in Japan, there will be a stronger need than ever before for people who can expand business and people who can support such expansion. To become such a person, experience in a rapidly expanding organization is very helpful.
In addition, in the world of the future, new industries and new concepts that support these industries will expand in society. New industries and concepts are areas that are like SDGs and carbon neutrality. Being in CHITOSE allows you to be directly involved in the expansion of such industries and concepts at the leading edge and on a global scale.
Can you tell us what kind of people do NOT fit in CHITOSE?
People who are stuck without rules and indicators. For example, people who are overly concerned about what they do to be evaluated would not be a good fit. This is because the content and scale of CHITOSE’s business is constantly changing, and CHITOSE dares not make up the details of individual evaluation indicators. If you are not someone who can manage yourself and move while praising yourself, there will be times when it will be hard to work.
What do you focus on in a recruiting interview?
I always try not to categorize people into types. If there are 100 people, there are 100 different ways, and 1000 people, there are 1000 different ways. In other words, I always strive to understand the person in front of me in their entirety as they are, so the honest answer is that the points I look for in an interview vary from person to person. The only thing I care about is whether or not the candidate, whoever he/she is, can be happy in CHITOSE. If I feel there is a different place where he/she can be happier than CHITOSE, I clearly tell them so. It is difficult to judge the potential for the person to be unhappy or to make others unhappy, but no matter how necessary I feel a person is to CHITOSE, if I sense the potential for unhappiness for the person, I unfortunately must give up on hiring him or her.
Do you think CHITOSE is a venture? Or do you want to continue to be a venture?
What is the definition of a venture in your opinion?
Yes. We are a venture, and I strongly believe that we will remain a venture forever. I don’t think the size of the company has anything to do with whether it is a venture or not, so in my perception Apple, Amazon and Tesla are also ventures. In my opinion, if the company has the will to change society, it is a venture. In this light, TOYOTA could also be considered so. In order to change society, the company itself must continue to change flexibly, because the social environment is constantly changing.
Please tell us about the kind of organization you are aiming for.
It is an organization that continues to expand.
Expansion means more members working together, both internally and externally, higher salaries and sales, and expansion of CHITOSE’s values.
For example, when we start a project at CHITOSE, we have a “Project Strategy Committee (PSC)” meeting to get approval. These meetings are held openly to the company so that anyone can make a proposal and anyone can participate. The main point I am looking at is what are they trying to expand through the project. I try to tell the proposer what kind of values they need to consider in order to expand.
Often times people asks “A or B?” In such a case, I want them to think about whether it is possible to take both A and B. It is important to raise your point of view and develop the habit of thinking from a higher place, and we want to develop such values. It is important for an organization that continues to expand that each individual continues to ask himself what he himself wants to do now, and CHITOSE has created an environment that dares to make people keep thinking about it.
What is the culture of CHITOSE that you wish to keep even if the number of members increases tenfold or even a hundredfold in the future?
Being an organization where everyone supports each other’s growth, regardless of seniority or juniority. This is a culture that I will always cherish. (If the indicators for evaluating people are made excessively clear, they will drag each other down, so we dare not over-quantify the evaluation indicators).
Now we move on to the next part. Please give us your short answers!
- What do you feel is lacking in CHITOSE now?
So many things actually… lol
People, money, brand recognition. Not enough for all of them.
- What are the moments when you truly enjoy being CEO?
When I see the growth of the members I work with.
- Then, what are the moments when you feel so hard that you want to quit?
When different values are arguing with each other about who is right.
- What kind of future of CHITOSE do you see?
Bigger than the “apple” company.
- How would you like everyone at CHITOSE to work?
If you’re into the work at hand and enjoy it, that’s all that matters.