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Failure to internationalize, take risks and value employees by merit have led to years of stagnation in the fields of computers, smartphones and semiconductors.

18 Comments

Nobel Physics Prize co-winner Shuji Nakamura (Bloomberg)

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Because I founded a software/analysis services company over six years ago, I have some direct personal experience in what Mr. Nakamura is talking about, especially w/regards to stagnation. My former company would send me to Japan once or twice a year to train our Japanese counterparts, and, through them, I was able to form some very good contacts in some well-known companies in the IT industry.

About four years ago, we came out with the first version of a breakthrough product in our field -- something that radically reduces time and expense -- and I took a couple of years to hone and improve it in the North American market before heading to Japan to introduce it to my "contacts" around two years ago.

What has amazed me is that the product has gained immediate acceptance in North American, European and Australian markets -- where it has been received as a "no-brainer." But Japan? Nobody has even wanted to try it, even though they all conceptually agree it's a powerful, risk-free "solution." People appear to be very emotionally invested in gross inefficiency and current cost allocations. They seem so blinded that their current way of doing things is the best way. A product that saves time and money would be too disruptive to the existing order -- the status quo. I recognize that. As I told my team in 2012: "If I hope to sell a single copy in Japan in 2015, I have to introduce it to them now. But don't expect anything to happen for quite some time."

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Everybody knows this in Japan, but no one wants to act it out, as it will break the "wa". Nakamura broke the "wa", although the media praises him, not a single Japanese companies would want to hire him.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Where's the 'like' button?

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Maybe try local representation and not selling it on your own, no matter how good your reputation is with your contacts there.

LOL! Some of my "local representation" wants me to just give the product away. If Brazilians, Argentines and Mexicans are willing to pay for it, why not the Japanese? Kindly stop making excuses for them. This is not anime. This is about saving serious time and money.

Remember, these Japanese are too risk-averse to even try the "unknown" product. None seems to be able to make a decision, wanting more "case studies" from the rest of the world. The people in other markets quickly see it as "no downside" and tremendous upside. That's exactly what Mr. Nakamura is talking about. At least he would try it, and make a fair evaluation. I keep thinking that, eventually, I'll run into a Nakamura in some organization -- and the rest will follow the leader like sheep.

Here's what gets me the most: I first arrived in Japan as a young man barely out of my teens in the early 1970s. It was there I learned about the American, W. Edwards Deming, and his life's work of the improvement of process. The Japanese have given lip service to his work by naming an award after him. We used Deming's principles to produce this product which has proven to provide a quantum leap over the current process, and these Japanese won't even give it a try. (Of course, there'd be no cost for a trial). So, what's holding them back? Fear.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Reminds me of an argument I had with my Japanese boss several years ago.

Me: But it will turn a profit. Why walk away from this opportunity? Boss: Because it involves risk! Our company does not take risks! We are not that kind of company. If you want to take risks, find another company to work for. Me: But if our company doesn't take risks, how have we lost so much money? Was that on purpose?

I didn't stay with them much longer. Funny how such a risk-averse company could go broke. They just don't see that there is also risk in doing nothing.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Everybody knows this in Japan, but no one wants to act it out, as it will break the "wa". Nakamura broke the "wa", although the media praises him, not a single Japanese companies would want to hire him.

kibousha -- spot on. But don't let folks like nigelboy catch you saying it, they'll say your "Japan-bashing". Good to see a Japanese person of accomplishment with an International reputation and vision recognize it. Too bad, as you suggest, his voice will never be heard within the walls of J-Inc.

Where's the evidence for stagnation?

turbostat -- you're joking right? How about on a macro level the nearly three decades of no real growth -- simply relying on massive government spending to pump things up? And on a micro level, how about Sony and all the other Japanese electronics firms?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Yes yes yes! Other areas in Japan too!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Compare flip phones with tiny screens and browsers, state of the art not too many years ago, with slab phones, phablets, etc., now.

I think he was talking about Japan, and then fact that the market share of Sony phones is in like the single digits, I'd have to agree.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yup. All too truth. You do not need a Nobel Prize to figure that out.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

jerseyboy : turbostat -- you're joking right?

My bad. I realized after posting he was probably talking about Japan, not the world, but I couldn't post again, til you did.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They just don't see that there is also risk in doing nothing.

Amen! If people could see that most reasonable and logical of statements, the problems of people like Shuji Nakamura would evaporate in a heartbeat.

The irony is that the founder of the company that would no longer take risks certainly took some when he founded it. It's simply crazy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

yabits

Maybe try local representation and not selling it on your own, no matter how good your reputation is with your contacts there.

Put a Japanese gloss on it.

Like American anime resellers do by printing their own American-style-and-taste vidboxes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Additionally, I think since the Nakamura-incident, Japanese with real strong talent seek to work abroad. A lot of my one on one lessons have been with scientists, doctors or engineers that want to work in the states..places like lockheed martin or NIMH.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Reminds me of an argument I had with my Japanese boss several years ago. Me: But it will turn a profit. Why walk away from this opportunity? Boss: Because it involves risk! Our company does not take risks! We are not that kind of company. If you want to take risks, find another company to work for. Me: But if our company doesn't take risks, how have we lost so much money? Was that on purpose?"

Sorry, but such kind of "conversations" with "a Jp boss" amuse me ))) "Was that on purpose?" You REALLY worked in Jp business? How long? )))))) 1 day? may be the whole week? ))) lol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

kibousha -- spot on. But don't let folks like nigelboy catch you saying it, they'll say your "Japan-bashing". Good to see a Japanese person of accomplishment with an International reputation and vision recognize it. Too bad, as you suggest, his voice will never be heard within the walls of J-Inc.

Whoa. How in the world do you include me in this and how in the world did the mods let this one go?

As to the comment by Nakamura, while his accomplishments are worth noting, the fact remains that his Nobel Prized work came during while he was employed by a small company in rural Japan. He even stated that this would of not been possible if it weren't for the former boss Ogawa.

While U.S. has it's way of encouraging innovations, I doubt many U.S. companies have the patience Nichia and Ogawa gave to Nakamura.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

As to the comment by Nakamura, while his accomplishments are worth noting, the fact remains that his Nobel Prized work came during while he was employed by a small company in rural Japan.

LOL. So typical. That is of course the same company, Nichia, that Nakamura sued, and took home about $9 million, because of them trying to cheat him by only paying him $20,000.

While U.S. has it's way of encouraging innovations, I doubt many U.S. companies have the patience Nichia and Ogawa gave to Nakamura.

Again, nonsense. Here's the truth:

However the company eventually ordered him to suspend work on GaN, claiming it was consuming too much time and money. Nakamura continued to develop the blue LED on his own and in 1993 succeeded in making the device.[5]

Do you just not know the facts about Japan, or just refuse to believe them?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Where's the evidence for stagnation? Saturated market?

If capabilities exceed what most users need or want, what has that got to do with the level of innovation?

How many jillions of apps does the world need?

Compare flip phones with tiny screens and browsers, state of the art not too many years ago, with slab phones, phablets, etc., now.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

LOL. So typical. That is of course the same company, Nichia, that Nakamura sued, and took home about $9 million, because of them trying to cheat him by only paying him $20,000.

From 1989 on, he received an additional sum of 62 million yen and by the time he quit the company (age age 45), his annual salary was about 20 million yen.

Do you just not know the facts about Japan, or just refuse to believe them?

What you basically stated that Nakamura went against the orders of the company yet the company had the patience not to fire him. Thanks for proving my point.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

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