Kenichi Ohmae has kept busy since he achieved fame as the head of McKinsey & Co. in Japan in the 1970s and '80s. He has written nearly 100 books, including the respected economic essays The End of the Nation State and The Borderless World. He ran for governor of Tokyo in 1995 but lost. That's when two of his campaign staffers urged him to launch a business school for entrepreneurs. "Before you kick the bucket, what you know about business should be imparted to our generation," Ohmae recalls them telling him.
So Ohmae, 58, set up night and weekend classes in central Tokyo and called it Attacker's Business School. Five years later, 5,000 students have attended. They don't earn a diploma, but would-be entrepreneurs do get pep talks and a place to schmooze. Mostly midcareer executives in their 30s, they are keeping their day jobs while investigating how to break out of the grind.
Already, graduates have launched 148 companies. Others have signed up to work for Ohmae's own ventures in software development, electronic commerce, and satellite television programming for business executives.
Ohmae, who holds a PhD in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he's trying to address the big knowledge gap that he sees in students coming out of even the most prestigious Japanese schools. Unless the students go abroad for an MBA, he says, "it's hard for them to even use a spreadsheet and develop a real feel for finance."
Ohmae's thick Rolodex and contacts from his 23 years at McKinsey come in handy. He regularly invites corporate chieftains to address Attacker's seminars.
Ohmae says he sees signs of hope that Japan's economy is finally turning around. In the meantime, Ohmae--when he's not writing books, practicing martial arts, scuba diving, or riding motorcycles, to name a few of his spare-time interests--will continue to impart his vision to up-and-coming Japanese executives.