How to Increase Your Impact in Japan’s Tourism Industry

How can one company, or even one person, make a difference in Japan’s trillion-yen tourism industry? Spanning multiple behemoth sectors with challenges on local, national, and even global scales, making a significant positive impact seems like an impossible task.

I believe that no problem is too big to solve, and no person too small to solve it. What matters is your approach, and I hope that by sharing mine, I can inspire yours. Let’s get started.

Choosing a big problem

The greater the negative impact of a problem, the greater the positive impact you can generate by solving it. That being said, you want to start with a problem that reflects the level of impact you wish to have. Seek out issues that weaken the tourism economy, affect many people within it, are geographically widespread, or are expensive to solve. Try looking at government initiatives and tourism budgets for an indicator of which problems are causing the most pain. Impact can only really be said to exist if it’s perceived, so if we assume that small changes will likely go unnoticed, we must ensure that there’s a significant gap between the current and desired state in order for impact to be possible.

Breaking down the problem

With a little observation, it’s apparent that big problems are just a mosaic of many smaller problems. In fact, big problems aren’t really problems at all, they’re merely the resulting symptom of the many smaller problems. This is why a one-size-fits-all approach will never solve a multi-faceted problem. It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. You need a tailored solution to address the root cause of each small problem, not one big bandage to cover up the symptom. In both the medical and entrepreneurial world, we call that malpractice.

Focusing your effort

Does it feel obvious what action you need to take? If it doesn’t, the problem you’ve chosen is probably too broad. Focused effort is the result of tight positioning, which facilitates value creation and deep impact. You want to go a mile deep into one big problem, not an inch deep into ten big problems. Unfocused effort leads to shallow impact, and even inaction. Imagine how overwhelming it would be to develop solutions for multiple big problems simultaneously. How effective would those solutions really be if you couldn’t give each of them your full attention? You want to become an expert in the problem you’re solving, but expertise is reserved only for those who focus their effort.

Codifying your process

After going a mile deep into one big problem, you can increase your impact tenfold by repeating the process on another. With enough repetitions you’ll start to notice patterns in how you solve problems, and by analysing your process, you can develop a repeatable framework that will allow you to generate deep impact over and over again at speed. This also enables you to solve multiple big problems without the overwhelm of working on them simultaneously.

Ecosystem thinking

In nature, every ecosystem contains key players whose effect ripples across the whole system. If their power were to be removed or amplified, the impact would be felt by all. In business, ecosystem thinking involves identifying the key players involved, and understanding their roles and relationships within the system. When solving a big problem, use this method to explore how you can help everyone involved. It could be the local community, investors, or even government agencies. Consider how each group relates to the problem.

Value stacking

Value is created when a problem is solved, so the more problems you solve, the more valuable you are, and the greater the impact you have. Look for problems that aren’t directly related to the big problem, but stem from your solutions to the smaller problems. Consider the issues typically associated with the type of solution you’re developing, and whether or not there are other people you could help as a byproduct of your solution. For example, whilst developing a trading card game to build interest in Japan’s national parks, I realised I could design it in a way that brings joy back to TCG fans who resent the poorly balanced sets and buy-to-invest culture. It’s completely unrelated to the national park problem, but it helps more people, right? This is how you create unexpected value, and it will get more eyes on your work.

Traversing categories

The most impactful solutions are often completely unexpected. When it comes to big problems, the proposed solution tends to adhere to some ancient industry standard. You could argue that, if the industry standard works, why is the problem still ongoing? Consider how hotels reduce complaints about waiting for the elevator. They don’t make the elevators faster, they just install mirrors in the lobby to distract people and reduce the perceived wait time. The solution comes from a totally different category (interior design) than the problem at hand (mobility services), and it works like a charm. By framing people’s feelings as the thing to change, it opens up endless possibilities for the solution.

Doing what others aren’t doing

Whether you choose a problem that doesn’t receive enough attention, tackle it with great intensity, or solve it in an unusual way, setting yourself apart from others will increase your visibility. Doing something different increases your odds of attracting powerful people who can offer their insight, resources, and connections to help you achieve your goal, and can ignite the cultivation of a passionate community that supports your work. In turn, this will increase your capacity to generate impact. You may be the mastermind behind the ideas, but solving big problems isn’t something you do alone. People have thousands of worthy causes fighting for their attention. Make yours impossible to ignore.

Leveraging experience design

Products and services are not only valuable for their utility, but for the experience they provide. People want more of what feels good. This has been true throughout the entirety of recorded history, it isn’t going to change. Great experiences sell, and the more money you make, the more power you have to solve big problems. However, great experiences don’t happen by chance, they happen by design. If this is something you need help with, you can learn more about experience design here.

Each method we have explored here will enable you to maximise the value you create, which ultimately leads to impact. As the great business philosopher Jim Rohn once said, “value makes the difference in results”. Value. You don’t need to be rich and powerful to increase your impact in Japan’s tourism industry. You don’t even need to be special or smart. All you need is an approach that helps you help others. That’s the key.