Technology and Innovation in Japan: Policy and Management for the Twenty-First Century

By Martin Hemmert; Christian Oberländer | Go to book overview

6

ORGANIZATIONAL INNOVATION IN JAPANESE BASIC RESEARCH

From bureaucracy to dynamic network

Ken Kusunoki

Introduction: problems and challenges in Japanese basic research organizations

Recently, sources of competitive advantage of Japan have been shifting from manufacturing to R&D (Porter 1990). Japan is now becoming a leader not only in manufacturing but also in engineering such as product and process development (Okimoto 1986). On the other hand, still lagging behind Western countries, Japanese contributions in the field of basic research are less significant (Sakakibara 1991). One of the most critical problems of Japanese basic research lies in the management styles of basic research organizations in Japan. Most of Japanese basic research organizations, especially universities and national laboratories, can be characterized as bureaucratic organizations which primarily pursue stability as well as continuity of research staffs and activities at the cost of organizational flexibility and fluidity. For example, considering human resource management in Japanese basic research organizations, almost all of them basically apply lifetime employment and uni-dimensional promotion systems based on seniority. Under such bureaucratic management systems, once entering a particular organization, most Japanese researchers stay in the same organizations throughout their careers. Bureaucratic organizations which are now dominant in Japanese basic research have some advantages in the sense that they carry out basic research activities in accumulative, systematic, and continuous ways, in order to learn from and catch up with basic research in Western countries. At the same time, however, bureaucratic organizations obviously pose some serious problems since they limit organizational flexibility and fluidity which are essential to basic research activities.

Considering theoretical aspects of R&D management, much of the existing literature has consistently argued that such a lack of flexibility and

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