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Excerpt from From Imitation to Innovation: The Very Large Scale Integrated (Vlsi) Semiconductor Project in Japan
Interest in Japanese management style has been mounting rapidly partially as a result of the great competitive strength of Japanese firms, especially those in steel, automobile, and electronics industries. An increasing number of observers in the United States and European countries are now lauding Japanese management. Many U.S. universities have developed or are planning various programs about Japanese management. Two recent books on Japanese management, Ouchi's Theory Z and Pascale and Athos's The Art of Japanese Management, were on the bestseller list in the U.S.
In spite of this strong interest, many discussions are still confined to such topics as workers' loyalty, lifetime employment system, and consensus-oriented decision making. Discussions on the characteristics of the technological innovation processes in Japanese firms are comparatively rare. We know very little about technological innovation processes in Japanese organizations and managerial behavior involved, and even less about the strengths and weaknesses of Japanese technology management compared to that in the U.S. and European firms.
This is not altogether without reason. The technological accomplishments of Japanese industry have been largely based on mass-produced and standardized items, process engineering, and quality control. Japan has not contributed much to developing new concepts and systems or making technological breakthroughs. But many observers believe Japan should change its policies for science and technology from emphasizing imitation to promoting invention. Recent national projects for research and development in Japan have, in fact, moved from catching up with foreign technology to developing originality.
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From Imitation to Innovation: The Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) Semiconductor Project in Japan
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