Japanese Companies and Innovation

Dr. Hiroyuki FUJIMURA
Hosei University


The starting point of innovation is to be aware of problems


Innovation is required for companies to survive in competition. Innovation means to create new technologies and mechanisms, and it is thought in general that it should be borne by those of young generation and middle ages. However, change of combination is also a form of innovation and the range where the elderly can be active is wide in the field.


A starting point of innovation is problems and inconvenience that we feel. The feelings such as that something does not go well and that it would be better if it becomes like this a little more generate new products and services. When the elderly increase, the things that have not mattered become problems. Those who can be promptly aware of it are the elderly themselves. Therefore, if there are not those who can be aware of the change, i.e., the elderly, among employees, the company will miss seeds of innovation.

When being aware of inconvenience, make a team to think of the solutions. It is indispensable to form a team mixing the young, middle-aged, and elderly. The elderly have rich information that has been accumulated in the long working life. The young and middle-aged know new technologies. Discussions among these different age groups enable creation of new knowledge.


For example, there are cases where the young cannot understand common practices for the elderly. In such a case, the elderly try to explain in order for the young to understand. They choose words and compose words by indicating specific examples. Then, a new discovery arises from there. I think that readers also have such an experience. While you are talking to someone for explanation, you can notice your own thoughts clearly and be aware of new aspects of things.

Combination generates innovation


It is thought that knowledge and experiences of the elderly can be rarely utilized solely. However, there is a possibility of generating a new thing that has not existed in the world by combining other information with what the elderly know. For example, a range of discussion will increase if elderly workers with rich experience of residing abroad are involved in a project team. The social infrastructure in Japan is the most developed in the world. Power outage rarely occurs and railways are operated with accuracy. Mails are delivered correctly and we can buy what we want for almost 24 hours. Such convenience becomes a matter of course if we live in Japan and we become unable to recognize the magnificence. Japanese business persons who are assigned overseas for the first time are confused with inconvenience in their life.


However, the local people live normally under such circumstances. They have wisdom of life to make up for the inconvenience, live comfortably, and enjoy their lives. Those with the experience of residing abroad have witnessed such a reality and have thought various things. They should be able to provide useful viewpoints different from the young and middle-aged who know only about Japan.


In this way, if goods and services to promptly solve inconvenience of the aging society can be generated, they can be sold to other countries that will face aging problems in the future. A similar phenomenon to the fact that Japan, which suffered from pollution problems in the 1960’s, created the world-best technology to prevent pollution will result in the occurrence also in this field. The society where the population aged 65 years old and over exceeds one-fourth of the total population is an unknown area for us; therefore, it is normal to become uneasy. However, today when other countries are similarly aging, it can be also thought that there are full of large business chances. Challenging resolutely and becoming an example to the world should be the mission of Japan.


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