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If you can keep your head...
on 30 November 2012
"IF" by Rudyard Kipling is Michael Woodford's favourite poem, but it is more than that - it is a beacon for the way he conducts his life. His story of 'triumph and disaster' is heartfelt and honest. 'Exposure' gives an extraordinary insight into the otherwise closed, aloof world of Japanese corporate culture and into the corruption and self interest at the top of one of Japan's finest technology companies - Olympus. Having worked his way up the organisation over 30 years, Woodford thought he was taking control of Olympus when he was made worldwide President in April 2011 and he was lauded, praised and further promoted by the company Board - 6 months later he was fired. The company said this extraordinary action (nobody gets fired in Japan) was for a lack of understanding of the ways Japanese business works - the truth is a very different and sinister tale, told in fast moving narrative of twists and turns, hopes and disappointments.
A true story published immediately following the events, this is Woodford's first book and it is clearly written by someone used to using the written word to get his way...it's a cliché, but I couldn't put it down.
Kipling's poem starts with the line: "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you"...Woodford kept his head (and his integrity), he was blamed but ultimately the wrongdoers (or some of them) have lost their heads. This isn't just a book for those interested in corporate governance or business ethics, it's a book about human nature and how Japan still struggles to cope with openness and reality. It's a story of good versus evil, and the results are not what might be expected.