GameDaily.biz has gone on a deep dive with former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé, interviewing him about his time with Nintendo and his future in consulting and cultivating the next generation of business leaders. There are several highlights of the discussion, including Reggie’s surprising first interaction with Satoru Iwata, the steps he took to understand Japanese business culture, and his being overwhelmed by the loud yet warm response to his retirement.
Reggie boldly asked to talk to Iwata during the job interview process to find a Nintendo of America president
It’s not standard practice to ask to talk to a boss in another country when interviewing for a position in a company, but that’s what Reggie did during the job interview process to find a new Nintendo of America president:
When I was being recruited for the opportunity to join Nintendo, I asked as part of the process to speak with Mr. Iwata. It was not going to be part of the process and as I learned later, it actually was a bit of a disruption in the process. Imagine from Nintendo’s perspective, ‘Who’s this candidate thinking that he can spend time with our global president. This is not a role that is going to be based in Japan. Why does he want to talk with him?’ I mean, you can imagine the types of conversations that must have been happening. But in the end they agreed for me to speak with Mr. Iwata before I would decide whether to accept the role.
As expected, Reggie Fils-Aimé and Satoru Iwata hit it off quite well, with Iwata becoming a cherished mentor:
It was set up to be a half-hour conversation and it ended up running much longer than that. And it really sets the stage for the type of business and personal relationship we would have. We would talk all the time. He was gracious in sharing his perspective. He was tremendously accommodating in hearing a unique point of view from me, a person who had no history in the video game business other than as a player. But [he valued] my perspective because I brought a consumer sensibility. I brought a Western business sensibility. And the relationship that he and I had for almost 11 years, it was truly special and just, his openness with me and the things that we were able to do truly together were just magical.
Learning to understand Kyoto business
Japanese business culture can differ dramatically from U.S. business culture, and in fact even Kyoto business culture differs from Tokyo business culture. As such, upon becoming Nintendo of America president and wanting to better understand his colleagues, Reggie said, “I absolutely immersed myself in Japanese culture, especially the culture and history of Kyoto and the broader Osaka region.” Nonetheless, he said that Nintendo business culture was itself still different, in a good and unique way, from how other Japanese businesses operated.
One of the most important communication skills Reggie learned over time from Japan was silence: “I’ve … learned the value of silence and letting someone truly think and consider a point that I’ve made. Westerners love to fill in conversation. They often don’t let the other person think.”
Reggie appreciates the warm response to his retirement
When Reggie decided to retire, the world quickly took notice. He said, “The reaction to [my retirement] video, the fact that across a variety of different platforms – last time I checked, it’s been viewed over 10 million times – that right there framed the community reaction, the passion, which I have to say was not expected [and] certainly gratifying.”
With his time at Nintendo behind him, Reggie is now aiming to help cultivate new leaders and businesses, whether it is as Dyson’s Leader in Residence at Cornell University or through angel investing at Brentwood Growth Partners. Whatever the former Nintendo of America president decides to do, his supporters will surely be there to cheer him on.