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September 19, 2005


Jay Huie

That's an interesting discussion since I believe in Kevin Maney's "The Maverick and His Machine", there's a comment in there about how when Japan was rebuilding they modeled them selves on IBM.

In addition to your institutional vs. decentralized view I also think a large amount of differentiation is due to Japan's more immediate set of constraints due to population density and aging.

In the US we have a diversity of living environments which instigates a diversity of innovations. However in Japan where space is constrained, I think you see that a great many of their inventions are centered around those issues (personalization and miniturization as examples).

I think ultimately this is why Japan will lead in a a lot of the areas you mentioned, Health Care and Urban Planning as primary examples.

Martin Moderi

The manufacturing revolution in Japan during the 70s and 80s was led by MITI, not by the Japanese companies involved. The lack of competition in Japan at that time helped them to create a colossus of manufacturing might (an excellent analysis of this lack of competition and its affects can be found in "Can Japan Compete?" by Michael Porter), but I would hesitate to call the results of their efforts innovation. They made tremendous strides in quality management, but their work in that area was largely modeled on the thinking of Deming. There is a saying in Japan that goes something like "the nail which sticks up gets hammered down".

MITI was formed in response to the reality that Japan has few resources, and her economy must be export oriented. They were spectacularly successful because they had the right strategy for the times and it was implemented by people with an incredibly strong work ethic. Japan is a much grayer country today than it was then, and it is increasingly difficult for their manufacturers to differentiate their products on the basis of higher quality.

The recent election is a strong indication that the Japanese electorate understands the need for change, but it's not clear to me what the right strategy is for them to deal with the threats from China, India, etc.

Manuel Avalos

Irving, that's a very interesting discussion topic about innovation on the 21st Century. US with NII report and other industrialized countries are taking serious steps to innovate as a way to succeed as countries in this Global world. How do you think Latin America countries are doing on this important topic?

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