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Home > Tech Reiews > Japan Technology Review Last Updated: 15:24 03/09/2007
Japan Technology Review #16: September 17, 2001

Symposiums to Introduce Creation of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform

By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)

Since the beginning of 2001, when the Creation of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform project started, two symposiums were held to introduce the objectives of this project. I will describe them in this and the next few reports.

The Engineering Academy of Japan (EAJ) held the first symposium on April 5th, 2001. Takeshi Nagano, President of EAJ made the following opening address:

The Engineering Academy of Japan is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established about 14 years ago by about 450 members. It aims to provide an opportunity for Japanese engineering leaders to freely discuss with members of other engineering academies abroad various engineering and technological issues. Upon welcoming a new century, we had been considering reforming our Academy in order to make more contributions to the development of civilization and society. Then we found out that the Ministry of Economy, Technology and Industry (METI) publicly announced "The Digital New Deal Project: Creation of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform." Its goal is to construct an innovation mechanism for creation of new businesses in the new century, which agrees exactly with our academy's objective but on a much larger scale. I expect your support as EAJ proceeds with the project.

In the keynote address, Professor Ikujiro Nonaka, Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy (ICS), noted:

Information attained through thinking, experiencing or practicing, and perfectly mastered by an individual, is called "knowledge". Knowledge management concerns studying and practicing how to manage organizational processes in order to create knowledge in organizations.

Two types of knowledge, one translatable into words and the other not easily translatable, are "explicit knowledge" and "tacit knowledge" respectively. Let us consider a knowledge creating process within an organization by combining these two types of knowledge. First, each member is required to convert his or her individual tacit knowledge into a common tacit knowledge within the organization. This is a process of sharing and creating tacit knowledge in a group by fully involving the five senses through direct experiences. It could be said to correspond to the process of transferring craftsmanship from a master to apprentices.

The next stage is putting tacit knowledge into words. Dialogue is key in this process. Converting tacit knowledge into words is not a very easy task for ordinary persons, because it has "penetrated" and become a part of him or her. Therefore, we cannot expect tacit knowledge to be perfectly expressed in an explicit form, but at least we should try to form it.

The third stage is combining explicit knowledge. This is the process of making full use of information as if creating new knowledge by combination. Information technology can be greatly utilized in this stage. The final stage is the conversion of explicit knowledge into individuals' tacit knowledge. It is a process of transmitting the newly formed explicit knowledge created by combination and to let it infiltrate into each member of the organization through activities and practices.

Thus, it is important that knowledge goes back and forth between individuals and the organization, becoming sometimes tacit and sometimes explicit, to be piled up, developed, and actively used within the organization.

Setting up a 'Ba,'--a significant place or arena for assisting mutual interactions between individuals and organizations--is a very important element for the success of knowledge management. The functions of a 'Ba' are sharing tacit knowledge, triggering and encouraging others by knowledge sharing, and supporting these processes.

In the past, private Japanese companies used to have very good 'knowledge processes.' However, industry became divided horizontally, (e.g. chips, hardware, OS and applications), where each division progressed separately in different directions in pursuing its best prospects. Knowledge cannot be created in an organization as a closed group now.

Overcoming the borders of companies, and forming and actively utilizing a flexible 'Ba' among various stakeholders is now very important. The Creation of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform is therefore considered to be a very challenging project because it aims at this as its goal.

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