My friends and I often discuss the advancement of countries in historical perspectives. The fact that a country does not stay in power for more than a few hundred years, if that long. We had a great conversation when I returned from India, marveling that when Indus civilization was flourishing, our Japanese ancestors were still hunter-gatherers, living primitive lives.
Reading one of my favorite “real people”, Misao Makiuchi’s book, <span class="underline"Knowledge Creation: Pioneer the Future talks about doing the right thing at the right place at the right time. For instance, his small business as an accounting firm flourished because he became independent when Japan was going through incredible economic growth through manufacturing, and they needed accountants who were easy to talk to, and who were service oriented.
Right place at the right time. Is Japan a passe, because it’s strength was in abiding by procedures with discipline? Because it has good percentage of people who would gladly follow the leaders, and during the years that manufacturing in consistent way was an art and the followers who were good at incremental improvements had their place in the sun? Now that manufacturing is no longer art understood by few companies but norm, Japan’s past giants are floundering.
In one of conversations I had today, I made the correlation between organisms like human and organization. Both are complex system that has life span. Both will born, grow, decline, die. It is inevitable. In order for such system to live extended lives, it will have to reproduce, and that is the only way. Therefore, does that mean only way companies like Matsushita, Honda, Yamaha, Fujitsu will survive is through subsidiary companies that were born from them?
And the question also remains: Will the set of skills that were so right for the industrial revolution age be of use to fill the needs of after internet age? Or is Japan now joining the past veterans like Spain, Italy?