Toshiba: Digital Dreams

Can the tech giant come up with the goods--and revamp its bureaucracy?

Just before accepting a coveted sales job in New York, Toshiba Corp. executive Taizo Nishimuro got shocking news: Doctors in Japan told him he had a degenerative muscular disease that would gradually cost him the use of his legs and eventually kill him. To get to the U.S., and confident no major symptoms would appear soon, Nishimuro kept this revelation secret. Three years later, in 1968, a specialist at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center told Nishimuro there was a 5% chance the diagnosis was wrong, an admission a Japanese doctor would never make. Finding out entailed a risky spinal exam, but as it turned out, Nishimuro's condition, though serious, could be reversed by arduous surgery. A few days later, a surgeon spent eight hours excising cysts that infested his vertebrae. Although he still walks with a limp, the operation was successful.

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