Title: Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s Legendary CEO
Author: Satoru Iwata
Release Date: April 13, 2021
Not many CEOs in gaming gather interest or admiration to warrant an entire book be dedicated to them. Perhaps this is partly because they are often being compared to Nintendo’s legendary former CEO and Hal Laboratories game designer, Satoru Iwata.
Ironically Iwata-San was too modest to have an official book written about him during his tragically short life. Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s Legendary CEO collects segments of the Iwata Asks interviews and organizes them in an uplifting and somehow extremely personally effective way.
Ask Iwata’s preface is the only time you hear words that aren’t Iwata-San’s. Without this opening, those that are unfamiliar with Iwata-San’s work might be unaware of some of the massive accomplishments he made throughout his lifetime. Iwata-San does of course touch upon these throughout the interviews but he equally gives credit out to numerous other coworkers.
Sections of the interviews are mostly broken up chronologically, as he describes his schooling, and first experiences with programming, before becoming an employee at Hal, then Nintendo. One might expect several specific stories relating to their favorite games, and while there are certainly bits of that throughout Ask Iwata, more often Iwata-San focuses on the company’s state of mind that led to the creative efforts of both Hal Laboratories and Nintendo. While I can totally understand that some may wish for more of the former, as a book focusing on Iwata-San it definitely feels more appropriate to focus on the latter.
Along with some of these company tales some words of wisdom are woven in. In later moments he mentions specifically his lessons learned from Shigeru Miyamoto, Shigesato Itoi, and Hiroshi Yamauchi and their contributions, but he humbly minimizes his own during these interactions. There are so many seemingly simple business approaches and advice given that are unfortunately unrealized or not implemented by others in similar positions of power.
These never come across ham-fisted as they are words I’m sure any employee would dream to hear coming from their boss. Any leader of a business would be wise to take note as they not only make happier employees but more productive ones with a better possibility of a more successful business.
It’s here that the empathetic and humanistic side of Iwata-San becomes blatantly obvious. Several times he mentions how important it is that individuals should be listened to and their concerns heard. His openness to listening and applying those changes to make a better work and creative environment was a top priority but so was his personal satisfaction at seeing others happy. Iwata-San compares this complicated problem solving to his work as a programmer. If something wasn’t working he saw it as his responsibility to fix it, whether it was something in-game or in real life.
Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s Legendary CEO is a brief but insightful look into the work and world of one of the greatest CEOs in gaming if not the business world in general. While the passing of Satoru Iwata makes these interviews bittersweet, one can’t help but feel inspired reading them. His kind and innovative nature lives on in his words and somehow feel more relevant and missed than ever.
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