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Can Japan Compete? Hardcover – October, 2000
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"American executives are grasping for a logic to global competition... Mr. Porter has given them one." -- New York Times
"Porter's books on competitive strategy are the seminal works in the field." -- Philip Kotler, Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University
"Rich in lessons about why and how industries, regions, and nations succeed or fail." -- Business Week
"Three overarching game plans that work... explain how thousands of real-world competitors come out on top." -- Fortune
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However, I didn't agree with two of the book's assertions: (1) that Japan is weak in basic sciences, specifically chemistry, and (2) that government policies did not play a role in helping Japanese auto manufacturers become globally competitive. As far as Japan's perceived weakness in chemistry, the authors point to the lack of Japanese Nobel Prize winners in the field. However, in order to make this conclusion (about chemistry) the authors overlooked companies such as Toray, the global leader in advanced composite materials, whose motto is "innovation by chemistry." They also overlooked the fact that Japan is a globally competitive in solar power systems and fuel cell technologies, both of which are hugely dependent on competence in chemistry. As far as the success of Japanese auto manufacturers, it is no secret that gas is and has been substantially taxed and that government mandated emission standards have been more stringent than many other countries. It is difficult to believe that these policies had no influence on the shaping of these companies, who now lead in vehicle efficiency.
However, in spite of these disagreements, this book is worth reading.
Michael Porter become the celebrity in the field of business strategy with his two books, ¡®Competitive Advantage¡¯, ¡®Competitive Strategy¡¯. Takeuchi and Sakakibara secured their name in organizational learning school with their book, ¡®The Knowledge-Creating Company.¡¯ With this book, ¡®the word, ¡®knowledge creation¡¯ has been widely circulated within business schools.
This book poses the question, ¡®Why does Japan stumble?¡¯ it¡¯s the single most popular subject in Japanese studies. Numerous books come to mind on that issue. The approach this book takes is, nonetheless, unique. While others have tackled it in the view of macroeconomics or political economy, authors of this book take the view of microeconomics, or more precisely business strategy. They argue that more-than-decade-long deflation and liquidity trap are not the fundamental problem, but just symptoms. The underlying problem must be hunted for elsewhere: the eroded competitive advantage of Japanese companies. There has been warning signs since 1980s well before bubble bursting:
1. Since 1980s, no new internationally competitive industry has emerged.
2. The profitability, or capital productivity has long been low. Export share has been achieved and maintained partly by sacrificing returns to capital.
3. Japan¡¯s share of world exports peaked in 1986 (10%). But it has fallen since then to below 8%.
Bubble and subsequent financial meltdown certainly is serious trouble. But above reveals much deeper crisis: the loss of competitiveness.
Michael Porter maintains that firms initially gain competitive advantage by altering the basis of competition.Read more ›
"This book aims first and foremost to offer a theory that can explain and interpret Japan's postware economic trajectory." This 'theory' follows a mostly academical and economical research method. In Chapter 1 the authors first discuss Japan's economical history, whereby the authors use extensive graphs, figures and tables to prove their point: "Japan's actual competitive performance, then, has been mixed for decades." Expanding on their discussion on the economical history, the authors challenge the Japanese government model. "At the core of the Japanese government model is a particular conception of the process of economic development and the bases of competitiveness. It embodies an implicit aversion to certain forms of competition and an effort to channel competition in various ways." This model goes back to the early post-World War II period, when "the nation was in shambles". There is an 12 developmental policies list which form the building blocks of the Japanese governmental model. The authors discuss the impact of these policies on Japan's successes and failures.
In Chapter 3, the authors discuss Japan's unique management model. "The model stresses attributes such as teamwork, a long time horizon, and dedication to continuous quality improvement, all of which remain important Japanese strengths.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an interesting book, but it seems to really grasp one or two key elements of Japanese culture and then try to apply it to the rest of the foreseeable future. Read morePublished on January 2, 2012 by Vince Lowe
This book is another attempt to capitalize on a name brand (Porter; Harvard) as opposed to providing a substantive, insightful take on what is happening in Japan and what needs to... Read morePublished on August 24, 2001 by Louis Ross
The title 'Can Japan Compete' raised my hopes of finding some thought provoking insightful debates in pages to come. Read morePublished on July 20, 2001 by firstname.lastname@example.org
A decade seemingly is a long time. Porter, et al.'s conclusion is that Japan's industrial policy and industry regulations as well as Japanese corporate strategy by... Read morePublished on June 6, 2001