An Interview with Emi Takemura, Co-Founder at FutureEdu Tokyo
I met Emi Takemura when we were both speaking at TEDx Roppongi in September 2016. I admired Emi’s diligence in preparing for her presentation. When I saw her spending many hours over several days in front of her computer with her earphones in and talking out loud, I thought she was on extensive video conference calls. But I later found out that this was her way of fully familiarizing herself with the content and structure of her talk – she was rehearsing. And she did a great job.
Just co-founding one organization is a dream for most people, but Emi has co-founded multiple organizations, including FutureEdu Tokyo and Peatix. She has some great advice for us on how to communicate successfully, including how to differentiate ourselves from robots!
1. What sort of communicator do you want to be?
Very good question. It depends on whom I am communicating with, but with anyone I speak with, I try to be a communicator who 1) asks good questions, 2) can be personable even with people I meet for the first time, 3) listens well, 4) can articulate my point of view, and 5) be transparent as much as possible.
Here are the reasons why I value these 5 points.
1) Asking good questions: Best way to find out about who the person I would be speaking with. If I can ask questions in a way that is easy to understand and relevant to the person being asked, the chances of having a productive conversation are very high.
2) Being personable: Even in business situations, we humans prefer to be cared for as people rather than faceless figures with no emotion. At least I would feel that way, and I try to find some mutual interests to establish some level of personal relationship.
3) Listening well: Listening is the best way to figure out how to have the best conversation. The more I listen, the more the counterpart(s) can feel understood and share their ideas.
4) Articulating points of view: In order to have productive meetings, it is essential that we have an agenda and have a few scenarios of the topics that we want to discuss with the other person. Obviously, depending on the conversation, we need to modify the course of the conversation. But without having a clear point of view that can be understood even by young children, meetings can be unproductive.
5) Transparency: Especially in global business communication, it is hard to have a productive meeting without having a good level of transparency on the basis of the conversation. That can include objective(s) of the meeting, why we want to meet with the counterpart(s), and what are the types of things we can do for the counterpart(s).
2. What is one communication success that you can share with us?
When I first moved to Singapore to launch Peatix‘s business in Southeast Asia, I did not know anyone who was related to our business ecosystem. In order for us to establish presence, it was imperative that we articulate who we are, what our missions are, how we would like to contribute to the community, and what we can do and cannot do. By being consistent with our communication and messages, we were slowly being able to build a community of event organisers in Singapore and Malaysia. Now, Peatix is one of the leading community event platforms in both markets.
Through this experience, I learned the importance of the above 5 points that I just mentioned.
3. What is one communication failure you can share with us?
When I first lived in the US as a junior student at a community college in Seattle, I was not a great English speaker nor a communicator.
It took me a few months to start having friends that I could have meaningful conversations with. Looking back, I was able to establish my initial success by joining a tennis team where I could be useful as one of the top players on the team. So finding a place where I could start asking good questions and articulate my points of view despite my lack of language fluency were the two keys to an initial success. It did take me a bit of time to figure out, as I was too optimistic in my first month. My initial thoughts were that people would be interested in international students like me and approach without me trying hard. Obviously, that did not happen, so I had to come up with my strategy to find people to communicate and establish friendships with.
4. What is most challenging for you in communication right now?
Right now, I am working hard to improve my writing and mobile based communications. I believe only purposeful practice can make things better, so I am trying to write a lot more.
5. What communication skill, resource, or advice would you offer to our readers?
Watch great YouTube videos, read great books, and meet with a wide variety of people. On YouTube, there are many great speeches including TED, which expresses core ideas in beautiful and personable ways. Rather than just watching for the sake of the story, watch and reflect on why you thought some videos resonated more than others. And try to incorporate those in your next presentation. And books are the cheapest ways to build a library of structured knowledge and absorb different expression styles. Lastly, the best way to improve communication is to have one-on-one meetings with a wide variety of people. We are naturally better communicating with similar types of people. So by immersing ourselves with a broad range of people, we can get better in communication.
6. What else do you want to tell us about?
In the near future, where a lot of ground work can be done by artificial intelligence and robots, it is ever more important that we become effective communicators, as that is one of the key differentiators we have versus AI and robots. Even when some people are naturally friendly, I think that being friendly is a different skillset from being able to carry out productive communications with a broad range of people. It is really meaningful and rewarding when you can establish a meaningful relationship with people whom you thought you would never have something in common. I hope you can articulate your own communication challenges and work on improving step by step. I believe our lives will be more fun and enriched by becoming better communicators either at a personal or professional level.
Failure isn’t fun. But the best way to learn the important lessons that make you a leader is to experience and overcome challenging situations.
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