Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2005Kellogg School of Management
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  Haruo Naito
  Haruo Naito '74

Haruo Naito gives back with a world of insight

by Matt Golosinski

Haruo Naito knows a thing or two about institutional commitment, about taking a cherished organization and striving to make it better and enduring.

As president and CEO of the Japanese human healthcare company Eisai Co. Ltd., he assumed the leadership of a firm founded by his grandfather, Toyoji, in 1936 and then passed down to Naito's father, Yuji. About 17 years ago, Naito stepped up to lead the Toyko-based enterprise whose global products include the Alzheimer's disease treatment, Aricept, and the gastric disorder medication, Aciphex/Pariet.

"The dynamics and excitement are the true joy of being in business," says Naito, a 1974 Kellogg graduate who has given back to the school by serving on its alumni advisory board since 1992 and as president of the Kellogg Alumni Club of Japan since its founding in 1994. The club, he says, currently boasts 582 members and tries to keep a mutually beneficial relationship with Kellogg by delivering "important empirical information" to the school.

He believes "personal commitment" to Kellogg is "vital" for alumni who hope to benefit from, and contribute to, the lifelong learning opportunities implicit in this relationship.

"Kellogg remains the world's pre-eminent business school," says Naito. "Its efforts as a pioneer in areas such as IT, corporate governance, product innovation, curriculum modernization, as well as its drive to internationalize, have allowed expertise to spread from the school to current students, and to its alumni."

Naito's commitment includes contributing to the Kellogg knowledge base through an Eisai partnership with the school that creates real-world educational opportunities for its MBA students. The firm has worked with Kellogg faculty to devise a practicum that brings students behind the scenes to understand the company's strategy and markets. The course also introduces students to the firm's "Human Health Care" initiative, begun by Naito. Some 150 "HHC projects" exist at the company to encourage its 8,000 employees to join efforts — such as visiting Alzheimer's clinics — that help them understand the patient experience.

Exposing Kellogg students and faculty to such corporate culture offers the school "significant feedback from real business sectors," empirical data that can "further propagate ... knowledge creation," while giving students the power to dig deeper and understand markets outside the United States, says Naito.

Naito credits the Kellogg leadership for providing the school with "significant competitive advantages" through their "keen interest" in real-world business, and especially the school's international perspective.

But as a young scholar coming to America, Naito admits having to quickly adjust his expectations to succeed at Kellogg.

"One good memory of my Kellogg days was the very first case report I wrote for my management class," he recalls. "I received a grade of C-minus and the professor's comment was 'What a poor paper!' This was actually quite a good start to my Kellogg life as it gave me the proper impetus to redefine my commitment in Kellogg style."

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Other memories for the CEO include Professor Philip Kotler's classroom, benefiting from his social marketing techniques. Also valuable was the school's insistence that "customer satisfaction is the sole objective of business," says Naito.

"This is a strong message that has stayed with me constantly, and I strive to implement this on a daily basis even now," he states.

The leadership lessons that Naito puts into action at Eisai Co. are founded on a commitment to problem-solving, and the Kellogg alum says that the pharmaceutical industry is facing "several very crucial issues" today, including complex intellectual property rights concerns, drug access considerations, and the value of the "big pharma" organizational model.

Naito says the jury is still out on that last point.

"But what is most important for our industry is how well you discover, how quickly you develop and how stable is your supply of products," he says. "The companies that are efficient and productive will be the final winners."

Of course, says its CEO, Eisai plans to be among these elite firms, and the key to success will be the company's "constant efforts to improve corporate value" for patients, shareholders and employees.

Naito's leadership and philosophy will surely play a crucial role in these efforts; fortunately for Eisai, his perspective and dedication seem up to the task.

"Every morning I go to the office, and I'm always in a good mood because I believe that our company is making valuable contributions," he says. "I can lead value creation, and this is the true joy of my activities."

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©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University