Visions of Innovation: The Firm and Japan

Visions of Innovation: The Firm and Japan

Visions of Innovation: The Firm and Japan

Visions of Innovation: The Firm and Japan


Computers, telecommunications equipment, semiconductorsthe products and technologies of the information and communications industry (IC)have transformed our world. Most of these products were initially developed in Western countries, but by the early 1990s some of the world's largest companies in the field were Japanese. This book explains the resurgence of Japan's IC giants, their global status, and their strengths and weaknesses.Empirical scrutiny of their evolution is complemented by the author's own theory of the most appropriate mehtod for studying the dynamics of industrial change. The author argues that in order to understand the evolution of IC companies and industries, it is necessary to create a theory of the firm capable of encompassing the development of real firms in the real world in real time. This approach stresses the importance of the beliefs that are constructed in the firm under conditions of 'interpretive ambiguity', which guide the firm's decisions and its reactions to new technologies. Lengthy analyses of NEC and NTT (by far the world's largest company in terms of market value; its future currently under government scrutiny), and of the computing, switching, and optical fibre industries, illustrate these concepts. Based on over 600 interviews over eight years with Japanese leaders, this book provides important new material on the past, present, and future of Japanese industry.


'Vision' is the main theme of this book. This, however, immediately poses a question: what, precisely, is meant by vision? This question is all the more important as a result of the wide range of meanings that has been given to the term in popular discussion.

The first point to make in answering the question is that the concept of vision as used in this book is different in significant respects from that used popularly. In everyday discussion the term vision usually connotes creative foresight; a person with vision is one who knows what needs to be done and how to get it done. Most of all, a person with vision gets it right. To the popular mind vision is an indispensable aid in the modern world; presidents of both countries and companies therefore must have vision.

Vision and Beliefs

In this book the concept of vision is given a far more restricted meaning. At the most general level vision refers to beliefs about what the world is like, how it changes, and what it will be like with and without the believer's interventions. It is in the light of their beliefs that people act. Their beliefs allow them to envision the future, that is to 'see' the future by constructing mental pictures regarding the state of affairs that they intend through their actions to bring about. Beliefs, accordingly, provide the building blocks for the construction of visions.

The conceptualisation of vision in terms of belief, however, forces a break with the popular notion that vision implies foresight, that is an ability to know what is required in order to achieve the actor's objectives. The reason, simply, is that beliefs, as we all know, may turn out to be incorrect. Where this is the case, the visions which have been constructed on the basis of the incorrect beliefs will therefore also be incorrect. These cases will be referred to as instances of vision failure.

Since the notion of vision being offered here is dependent on the concept of belief it is necessary to explore this concept in more detail. In doing so two questions are crucial: How are beliefs constructed and how do they change?

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