Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I just received word that I have been admitted into the International Business Strategy Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program at the Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy. I was talking to them last year about possibly applying, since the Ministry of Education recently changed the rules so people could apply for a doctorate program without a masters degree. Unfortunately, I don't even have an undergraduate degree so it was tough nuggies for me. They changed the rules this year and let me apply again and I got in. I guess this makes me the least educated student to ever be admitted. hmm...

Anyway, the real reason I'm doing this isn't the degree, although that's nice. It's a very cool program where I will be able to use the resources of the university including research and the professors. My only deliverable is a book on the sharing economy. I don't have to take any classes and the topic really fits right in with Creative Commons, blogging and everything else I'm doing. I'm a big fan of many of the professors at the school and I am really psyched to be able to exploit them officially now. ;-)

Here is a PDF of my research topic description.


Congratulations Joi! :)

That's quite an opportunity. Have you been in university before?

Hey congratulations Joi! Back to school indeed - you've been further away from school than many. I think schools are served by persons like you coming back with broad interests and deep experiences. You don't have to take any classes - maybe that's too bad, I like the thought of you twitching your way through Calculus 10 or something.

I just recently decided to go back to school as well, studying video game design at the University of Southern California. I'm looking forward to the chance to have intellectual peers in a formal setting. And the assignments! Make a movie, write a screenplay, design a game. Whew! That's fun stuff, at least.

Joi, I hope there will be some faculty or other students there who will push on you a bit, expand your ideas or deepen your discipline. That's what I'm hoping for myself as well.

Petri: I dropped out of some of the best. I dropped out of Tufts and dropped out of University of Chicago... But this program will be totally different. I won't be taking "classes" and I have great respect for the professors.

Justin! That's right! We're... in sync.

I think I'm glad I'm not taking classes and I'm SURE I'm glad I'm not taking Calculus 10. But I have lectured at ICS several times and have even received interns from the school. I really have enjoyed talking to the students so I am definitely looking forward to finding some peers.

Congrats, Joi! It's great they're accepting students who don't have the papers but do have the motivation and the hard-earned experience. Everyone should be allowed to go back to school anytime they want.

As for peers, I'll be yours ;)

"isn't the degree"
"use the resources"
"My only deliverable"
"I don't have to take any classes"
"I am really psyched to be able to exploit them"

why wouldn't you just pay them to be your research department? You didn't mention one word about you trying to learn there or an overwhelming excitement and explanation of what they do. you have explained more about what your phone does in your posts. sounds like a vanity degree, and you only talk about what you will get out of them. that is not the point of edjamofocashun. sorry to be such a critic, i normally love your blog.


I am learning a great deal right now by meeting people, blogging and reading stuff on the Internet. I'm not really trying to learn anything specific there, but rather trying to help me learn what I'm trying to learn better. As I said, I'm trying to figure out the sharing economy from a business perspective.

I have always loved academic discourse, but hated sitting in boring classes and writing papers that I was not interested in writing because it seemed like a waste of time to me. This DBA program allows me to be extremely efficient with my time and learn the way I like to learn, but provide me with more resources, great advisors, some added pressure and the rigor of an academic environment. This may be a sort of irreverent attitude to people who are professional academics, but I think it will be a win-win for both the University and myself.

I was going to write more about the school, but I actually don't know THAT much about the school other than the professors, which, as I said, I'm great fans of. Talking about the reputation would just sound boastful.

Why don't I just pay them to be my research department? Because... I'm a research department that need to be guided. I don't need a research department. It's the research that's fun!

I just posted a PDF of my research topic description which gives a better idea of why I applied.

And the "exploit" was a joke...


Congratulations Joi! Maybe you’ll inspire me to get my doctorate finished. You crazy masochist. You just signed up for a tour of intellectual hell.

It sounds like Hitotsubashi is the "Columbia Pacific University" of Japan ( ). Coming out and admitting it's a degree mill up front I guess at least covers your ass on the integrity front.

that really does sound cool, an opportunity to continue your writing and research in a more structured and disciplined fashion. several of my friends have gone back to school, and the overall impression that i get from them is that the second (or third) time around is a completely different and infinitely more fulfilling experience. i am looking forward to reading the book.
("back to school" wasn't that a movie with rodney dangerfield...)

Actually, the Hitotsubashi B-School is not really a "degree mill"... They only accepted 4 applicants in the program this year. It's usually ranked in one of the top 3 for Japanese business schools with Waseda and Keio and is the top national business school. But it is a business school and not a PhD program so they will let me be more application and real-world oriented than a doctorate in philosophy. I will have a bunch of fairly rigorous reviews before they ever give me a DBA, but they are taking a chance with me and allowing me to pursue a fairly non-standard way of approaching my research topic and making a contribution to the field.

Yeah, I remember the movie with Rodney Dangerfield. ;-) I had dreams of that when I was in college. Now I enjoy research a lot more and am having fun imagining the process of diving into research. I wonder how long this image will last...

I would check if that University is recognized by others, before expending money on a worthless degree; anyhow, if you do it for the other reasons you mention, it is up to you.

I keep forgetting that no one outside of Japan really knows Japanese schools... Hitotsubashi is a 125 year old University where many well known political and business leaders have graduated. This particular program / school that I am joining started October 2002, so it is new and is very progressive but quite well respected. It is the only Japanese business school in the Berkeley HAAS MBA exchange program and is along with Keio the only MBA exchange school with the London Business School. It is affiliated with the Harvard Business School's Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness. It is one of the three school accredited by the AACSB in Japan and the only government university with AACSB accreditation... but I didn't want to get into all of this.

It's a good school, with great professors and I looking forward to participating in the program. I'm not doing it for the degree, but it's a prestigious degree and I wouldn't want to belittle the value of it and the work of others in the program by not giving it the proper credit and respect.

I'm a bit annoyed with some of the negative comments on this blog entry. As one who has spent 8 years from freshman year to Masters to a PhD you'd think I'd be the first to belittle Joi's return to university. But I'm not. I think it's fantastic! Why? Cos Joi obviously didn't waste his time after dropping out of his first college. He went on to do amazing stuff that has brought him to where he is now. He gained knowledge, experience, and expertise and mostly in the areas of business and economics. Few MBA students can claim to have even a little bit of what Joi has intellectually gained. To be given the opportunity to cap it with a research project that should culminate in a book so does not sound like a "vanity degree" to me.

CONGRATS, and welcome to ICS! I am happy to hear this news - I guess it is good for you and good for the school.

sounds like an entitlement to me. things like this should be rejected and not sought. doesn't sound like "sharing" to me, sounds like "taking".
which student who worked hard to get his shot did you it from. I suppose we'll never know, but your self aggrandizing will continue. Where's the love?

Go Dr. Ito!

To allay fears of it being a diploma mill, just google for "hitotsubashi ranking" sans quotes and it'll come up as the #39 MBA program in Asia according to the Financial Times and Asia week. Also, aren't Ph.D's usually free of tuition thanks to fellowships?

Although I wonder, do you expect to spend the usual 5-7 years on this dissertation on the sharing economy? I can hardly imagine what the sharing technology of the day will be by then.

It seems dishonest to me to get a doctorate for simply writing a book, without any actual academic study of business or economics.

Not to mention, your book would surely be better if you had some formal education.

Take a moment to re-evaluate whether classes and papers are boring, or whether you just lack any self-discipline.

Congratulations! That sounds like the best way to get an advanced degree to me.

Come up with a unique, long-term research project you really want to do, find people you want to work with, and use the resources and community of the university.

Much better than going in as a young person, without much direction, being bullied by teachers without domain expertise.

For the skeptics, if Joi doesn't have the patience to finish the project, he won't get the degree. If the quality is a top-of-mind blog post rather than primary research and strong analysis, he shouldn't get the degree.

Joi, would you be willing to blog/wiki your research? Would love to see what you are coming up with, and the community might provide incentive to keep going.

We had "firms" for years before Ronald Coase wrote "The Nature of the Firm." We will have the "sharing economy" many years before we really understand how to describe it in business and economic term. I don't plan to spend my whole life writing the book, but I think the topic will be relevant for quite awhile still.

Anonymous, I don't plan on writing a book without academic study. I have been and will be doing a great deal of academic study to write the book. I just won't be sitting in any classes for the sake of being "trained for self-dicipline." It is not for lack of self-dicipline that I don't like boring classes or assignments. I just value my time too much to spend on things that I don't believe are worthwhile.

Adina, yes. I still have to clear the process and my methodology with my advisors, but I plan to blog/wiki my way through my research. And you're right Adina. I can't "just write a book." It has to be a book worthy of a doctorate. I am feeling confident that it will be interesting and not-so-horrible because it is a topic that I've been working on and thinking about for years. I believe I already have a lot of the pieces. It may be that I'm underestimating the difficulty of my task.

So will this blog address change to Congratulations!

Jordon. Hehe. I can't imagine actually wanting people to call me "Doctor" but I am considering a new blog or wiki for the academic stuff... Not sure if it fits here, but worried about running two blogs...

I think its a fabulous topic and look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Wow, great opportunity Joi. I know many individuals who, because of their experience, would / should be doing these kinds of advanced degree projects, but haven't been able to because they never got their bachelors degrees. I think you'll be able to serve as an inspiration and example for them, as well.

But, I do think that #joiito should be changed to #drjoiito upon your degree completion ;-) At some point soon, you are going to have to get used to people calling you "doctor"--and asking you to look at their bad backs!

In response to Anonymous:

In many countries, the doctorate (usually termed Doctor of Science as opposed to a Doctor of Philosophy) is a capstone degree given in recognition of a significant contribution to the field. That's the way it works in the FSU, for instance—one receives a Candidate of Science degree (somewhere between Masters and PhD), teaches, researches, writes, and then submits for the doctoral degree well after one has taken one's last class at university.

badmouthing Hitotsubashi -- whattaidiot

I had a eikaiwa student in the undergrad program there, and IIRC the competition to get into Hitotsubashi is every bit as fierce as Todai, Keio, and Waseda.

I like this approach to higher education and wish there were opportunities like this here in the states. My undergrad years, all 7 of them, were a real disaster zone.

i like your paper: it puts alot of your work together.

it would be good to add more sociology stuff in it: look up that barry wellman guy. if you haven't read his stuff, you should. I like Alex Halavias as well.

i think alex has a great blog post for grad students with lots of helpful stuff. he is a nice person and available: maybe you can be a guest blogger during his course and this could count towards Teaching experiece ect...

good luck

Thanks for the tips Stef. I'll look them up right away.

There's a lot of diversity in how academic programs work throughout the world and depending on the desired end result. One of the worst misunderstandings about academia is that it's all the same. As a result, students who are miserable in their current environment think that education is lost to them. I'm stoked that Joi's going to have the intellectual guidance for this endeavor.

What Chris T is saying needs to be emphasized. In many European institutions, you never take a class as a part of your doctorate. You are responsible for becoming the master of some novel area of thought. You are given advisors who help guide you to a deeper understanding. The end result is a dissertation that is approved by all those who guided you. Joi's program is awfully similar to that.

My PhD is not traditional either because i'm not very good at being a traditional student. There are many diverse paths to knowledge that should be encouraged. Even if Joi does not have the language to speak about the opportunity that he has in terms that are politically correct for the hoity toity academics, he should be applauded for recognizing the value that universities provide and taking a leap of faith by trying to make that work for him.

"Not to mention, your book would surely be better if you had some formal education."

A remark that appears to have originated with someone who's never written a book (and possibly someone who's never read one).


No Formal Education.

It has been about a year working on my family business in Asia since my return from US. While I find managing a non-tech business interesting, my love for technology is growing stronger than ever. So, I just took the GRE and about to apply to Phd programs (hate to do the application).

However, I am not sure if I am in love with technology itself or the management aspects of it. I am kinda torn between Phd programs that focus on pure technology and those that also integrates public policy and social sciences.

But no doubt Joi here serves as a great academic inspiration for me, besides his blogs! Congrats.

"Not to mention, your book would surely be better if you had some formal education."

A remark that appears to have originated with someone who's never written a book (and possibly someone who's never read one).

Come on, Cory. You know that a formal education is what makes it a book. That, and binding. Without binding, ya got nothin'.

I sure am glad the anonymous poster let me know about this. All this time, I've been tying heavy rocks to my manuscripts and throwing them out the window! (hand hits forehead)

Good luck, Joi. Keep those synapses firing.

Chris: I've got news for you ... there are only 39 MBA programs in Asia, so Hitotsubashi is 39 out of 39. ;-)

Basically, very few people in Japan go to graduate school. That includes masters, Ph.D., and MBA (although MBA programs are very, very new here). Law school is an exception, of course, but until recently there was only a single law school, operated by the government.

People can talk about how hard it is to get into this or that graduate school, but the macro view is that there are very few students who want to go on to graduate school, and universities are desperate for applicants.

Advanced education in Japan is done inside corporations. To the extent that people go to graduate school, they tend to be sent there by their employers (and they are often sent overseas). Having a masters degree or Ph.D. doesn't improve your employability; rather, it marks you as some kind of weirdo. The Japanese Chemistry Nobel Prize winner a couple years ago was a salaried employee at a corporation, not a university researcher. Same with the blue laser inventor.

Another fact about Japanese universities: many of the professors are unpaid. They only get money if they can recruit students or corporate sponsors for their research. How tough are these guys going to be on accepting grad school applicants?

The quality of research at universities in Japan tends to be very low. The reason for this is that each professor has his own "lab," with his own graduate students, and they don't interact so much with researchers outside their lab. And their motivation is sapped because their professor takes credit for their research: they have to take the long view that they will be able to rip off their own graduate students later if they become professors themselves.

Congratulations, Joi. And as for those who are denigrating this avenue, well ...

there's often a lot of truth to the saying PhD = Piled Higher and Deeper.

There will no doubt be a lot of fundamental research and thinking that goes into a book breaking new ground on "a sharing economy" that must take into consideration both the ineffective aspects of current economic thinking, as well as the aspects of that thinking that have yielded positive progress.

I don't buy the argument that only the current torturous and self-serving academic structures are the best ways to encourage and support research, critical thinking and valuable new ways of looking at the ways humans go about their activities.

Keith: "Having a masters degree or Ph.D. doesn't improve your employability; rather, it marks you as some kind of weirdo."

That may have been true a few years ago, but I think think "the times, they are a changing" Keith. It's now more common in Japan for a CEO/CFO of a mid to large sized firm in his 30s or 40s to have some kind of an advanced degree. Granted, PH.D.s are still rare, but you see plenty of masters degrees, and I think the trend will continue. As far as I can see, MBAs are especially quickly catching on.

Hey Joi, my brother will probably be going to Hitotsubashi from next year (as an undergraduate) so if you guys ever meet at the cafeteria, please give him a shout

Keith wrote:

Basically, very few people in Japan go to graduate school. That includes masters, Ph.D., and MBA (although MBA programs are very, very new here).

Well, here are some enrollment numbers at the undergraduate, master and doctoral levels at some Japanese universities.

u 15466
m 6101
d 5953

u 13274
m 2172
d 982

u 10616
m 3788
d 2846

u 4745
m 959
d 725

u 44863
m 4745
d 1676

u 11000
m 1640
d 377

Looks like a significant percentage of the students go to grad school, actually.

Law school is an exception, of course, but until recently there was only a single law school, operated by the government.

Your description is somewhat misleading — a large number of universities have undergrad and graduate law schools. An official qualification exam and subsequent government-sponsored training is only required if you want to become a judge or attorney; graduation from an accredited law school isn't even a requirement if you pass the official qualification exam.

People can talk about how hard it is to get into this or that graduate school, but the macro view is that there are very few students who want to go on to graduate school, and universities are desperate for applicants.

A quite simplistic or superficial analysis, IMHO.


Thanks for posting your research topic PDF. You are on the leading edge of a new economic age.

In your hypothesis you state your belief in the study of the sharing economy and peer-production will lay the groundwork for the future of business in the information age.

I agree! The more we can bring discussion to how business is evolving the more enlightened we all can be and work together to actually accomplish it.

We have been looking at ways to help teach youth about business from a sharing and open persective. My hope is that some of this research will be used to create social programs to help youth have a healthier relationship with what business is and not have to sell out on their beautiful visions of helping the world.

There are so many creative people that could apply their talents to a sharing business paradigm too.

many congrats and wish you the best of luck in pursuing your doctorate:-)

Congratulations Joi!

As people have pointed out, the idea behind a Doctoral degree in any field is making original contributions to the forefront of your field: astrophysics, literature, business, or whatever. In the field of business, some would say that Joi is already making original contributions -- and this is what a progressive admissions committee would have looked at in deciding the degree requirements.

Business is a very applied field, so any kind of an ivory tower approach by faculty creates a risk of rendering their work irrelevant to the field. Assuming the best case, Joi's experiences will give Hitotsubashi ICS faculty valuable access to real world data and insights and give Joi access to more academic expertise and debate. This level of flexibility should actually be looked at in a positive light.

By the way, I'm starting an MBA at ICS this September, so hope to see you around!

do you pay for education in Japan?

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What the heck??? I hope Joi's short attention span will not prevent him for finishing his Doctor's degree. Either way, great news! Read More

and he's admitting it in public. this means i need to get on the record, fast. i knew joi ito before he was smart.... Read More