A restaurant in Brookline, Mass., which specializes in local and regional American food and has no obvious tie to Japan, has hung a Japanese flag in its window. It’s a small sign of empathy on this side of the world as we watch the horrors that are unfolding on the other side.
At this time when we all feel sadness and concern for the people of Japan, we want to take a moment to express our appreciation for some of the ways in which Japanese researchers — and Japanese management innovations — have contributed to MIT Sloan Management Review over the years.
Many of the stories written by these contributors have provided insight into Japanese methods of manufacturing, with lessons about partnership, motivation, and innovation.
Ikujiro Nonaka, at the time a professor and director of the Institute of Business Research, Hitotsubashi University, wrote a story in 1988 on “middle-up-down management” and the concept of “compressive management,” which recognizes a key role for middle managers in information development. His work was assisted by professor Hirotaka Takeuchi and Tsuyoshi Numagami of Hitotsubashi University.
Toshihiro Nishiguchi, at the time a professor of management at Hitotsubashi University, Institute of Innovation Research, co-authored an important story with Alexandre Beaudet, then a research adviser at the Mitsubishi Research Institute, on the Toyota Group and a 1997 fire at a supplier, Aisin Seiki. The story detailed how a group of suppliers “demonstrated its cohesion and resiliency at a time when many observers were discussing the weakening of traditional ties among group members,” banding together to set up alternative production sites and continue to supply a crucial part to Toyota.
MIT SMR has, in fact, had numerous stories about the management lessons of Toyota that were made possible by the assistance and generosity of Japanese researchers, data gatherers, and managers. Among those pieces:
- 1995’s “The Second Toyota Paradox: How Delaying Decisions Can Make Better Cars Faster” by Allen Ward, Jeffrey K. Liker, John J. Cristiano and Durward K. Sobek II;
- 1999’s “Toyota’s Principles of Set-Based Concurrent Engineering” by Durward K. Sobek II, Allen C. Ward and Jeffrey K. Liker;
- 2009’s “