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With new leadership incoming, Nintendo aims to keep collaboration front and center

"Mr. Kimishima has shown through his own actions what it means to manage a company collectively rather than relying on the efforts of a single person," says incoming president Shuntaro Furukawa.
"Mr. Kimishima has shown through his own actions what it means to manage a company collectively rather than relying on the efforts of a single person, and I understand my role as one of continuing on that same course."

- Incoming Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa reflects on the example set by his predecessor.

Nintendo held its quarterly investor Q&A this past week and, following the news that current president Tatsumi Kimishima would retire this June, the conversation was abuzz with questions about the company’s incoming president Shuntaro Furukawa’s point of view.

Throughout the session, Kimishima, Furukawa, and investors discussed how the company had grown under its previous leadership, and how it would continue to do so under Furukawa’s guidance. But one interesting topic brought up during the questioning shone a light on how Nintendo's leadership structure has changed recently to reflect a more collaborative process, and how the company’s new president wants to take that “non-traditional” leadership system even further.

In response to one question asking about the timing of the decision to bring a new president on board, Kimishima explained that one of the duties he assumed when taking the role of president in 2015 following Satoru Iwata's passing was to change Nintendo’s directorial structure to speed up the decision-making process.

“After [Hiroshi] Yamauchi’s presidency, there was a change in the environment surrounding Nintendo, where no longer could any single person decide matters on their own,” explains Kimishima. “That was the start of the collective leadership system that I, too, have carried on. In my view, Mr. Furukawa’s role as president is to bring the best out of the excellent people responsible for software development, hardware development, sales, and marketing. He must steer Nintendo as a whole, and push for the points that must not change.

The resulting system delegated authority throughout management and enabled younger senior managers to act, something that Kimishima credits for Nintendo’s better-than-forecasted fiscal results this past year. 

Incoming president Furukawa, who serves as director and managing executive officer currently, worked with Kimishima to advance what he describes as Nintendo’s “non-traditional collective leadership” system and, as such, Kimishima believes now is the perfect time for him to fully take the reins. 

Furukawa explains that Nintendo will “be managed by the members of a new executive management committee under a next-generation collective leadership system,” and that those leaders will be pulled from hardware development, software development, sales, and marketing. 

“They all have their different strengths, so I intend to have frequent one-on-one conversations with them, share any background or context behind how things are done, and do everything I can to be mindful of engaging in management together as a team,” says Furukawa.

Furukawa also notes that his highest priority as incoming president of Nintendo is to boost the momentum behind the Switch to meet the company’s projected 20 million unit sales for the next fiscal year, and continue to expand Nintendo’s fledgling smart-device business into something larger. 

“The one thing we must never forget when running Nintendo is that we are a company that makes entertainment products and playthings, not necessities. It is a business where our mere existence could be quickly forgotten if consumers stopped considering our products to be fun and interesting,” says Furukawa. “No matter how the era or the environment changes, the essence of our business will not change. It is a high-risk business, so there will be times when business is good and times when business is bad, but I want to manage the company in a way that keeps us from shifting between joy and despair.” 

“This is a high-risk business by its very nature, and that will not change,” he continues. “But we need to be a company that continues to ask ourselves what we can do to maintain our relationships with consumers, and how we can leverage our ingenuity to mitigate the risks even a little bit, and never come to the conclusion there is nothing we can do.”

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