An OECD conference titled "Managing the University-Industry Relations: The Role of Knowledge Management" - Part 2 -
By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)
The second panel was on "The Next Generation Economy Opened Up by Accumulated Knowledge," which evoked discussions related to the knowledge-based economy. The first speaker was Shumpei Kumon, Executive Director of the Center for Global Communications (GLOCOM): Along with informatization, a game of knowledge has started. In this game, new players described as NGOs, NPOs and netizens play important roles. Groups forming networks linking these players need to be realized by fiber-optic cable networks. Toshiharu Aoki, President of NTT Data, spoke as follows: Information Technology (IT) had been used as a tool for higher efficiency of management. Now it has become a weapon to create new businesses. Informational imbalances between suppliers and consumers are being dispelled by IT. Customers are forming various groups according to their interested areas, and business trading has started in the IT Marketplace.
Norihiko Ishiguro from METI described the overview of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform as an attempt to establish "Ba" or arenas on networks in which interchanges of researchers and engineers of different fields took place, and eventually new businesses would be created. Tsuneo Nakahara, Vice Chair of EAJ, points out the three tasks that corporations are facing: how to deal with the IT revolution, how to deal with a borderless economy, and how to deal with the economic depression. He said that creation of new businesses as well as establishing corporate ethics are very important to solve these problems.
After these speeches, a discussion was held. On the issue of whether or not it was adequate for the government to lead a project such as the Science and Technology Knowledge Platform, Kumon pointed out that cooperation of the government and NPOs was important. Kumon also said that it was important for success of the project to accommodate contents in a dispersed manner, because participants were dispersed. Ishiguro said that it is desirable that the government plays a role of providing public spaces only, and that people should show their wisdom as much as possible on how to make use of these spaces. Aoki stresses that in order to be successful, the project needs to present advantages for which participants would be willing to pay. Nakahara said that for such projects, steady and persistent improvements after trials are important.
From the audience, Kazuhiro Goto of IUJ said that investment in human resources was inevitable for maintaining, managing and developing Ba for exchanging opinions. Ishiguro responded that in order to weaken controls of corporations and to promote individual participation, he was eager to create a successful example. Nobuo Tanaka, Deputy Director of RIETI, who was the moderator of this session, explained that opportunities for individuals to show their talents would be increased along with the progress of modularization of industry. Another participant asked from the floor a question on how to evaluate success and failure in this project. Ishiguro answered that at least an experiment of establishing Ba of knowledge would be accomplished even if it was not very active, but that he was more expectant of seeing participants gathering at the Ba. Other participants commented that in order to strengthen our international competitiveness, it would be important not only to create Ba but also to carefully choose target industries in the project.
The third panel was entitled "Knowledge Innovation in Corporate Management." Hirotaka Takeuchi, Professor of Hitotsubashi University Graduate School, served as moderator. The first speaker was Yoshiharu Fukuhara, Chairman Emeritus, Shiseido Co., Ltd. Fukuhara said that when the management of Shiseido was in a difficult situation, he tried to shift the company's paradigm by taking the symbolic action of clearing half the bad stock. He also set a goal of customer-oriented management, and tried to cause a consciousness revolution within employees by saying that his knowledge consisted of the company's history, such as what had happened, when and why.
Taizo Nishimuro, Chairman of the Board, Toshiba Corporation, told his vision of reforming the company into an alert and agile corporation. He has promoted innovation of the management system by introducing an executive board members system, by reforming the corporate climate and culture by advocating that it become more alert and agile, and by innovating corporate structures by selection and concentration. He tried to transform the company from an integrated electrical equipment manufacturer into a "compound" electrical equipment manufacturer. He also developed an activity called DFACE, which was to create new products by forming explicit knowledge out of customers' voices. Particularly, the characteristic point was that he had employed an information-sharing tool for progress control and totaling achievements of this corporate reforming project.
Shigeta of Nippon Roche reported on his transplantation of tacit knowledge within sales management. Sales management used to be hidden in a black box. Especially, how to access to hospitals and doctors was invisible. So he investigated access methods of both excellent sales persons and average sales persons, and clarified the differences. As a result, the most prominent 20% of sales personnel were collected under the president and became trainers for the remaining80% for three months by implementing on-the-job training in order to transfer their knowledge. This project had been continued for one and a half years, and company sales increased more than 10%.
Related to these speeches Masahiko Aoki, Director of RIETI, introduced a typical corporate management style from Silicone Valley. In Silicone Valley, companies exchange information with each other. One of the factors of success is that companies do not guard all information, Aoki said. Jean-Michel Saussois, Consultant of OECD expressed alarm at the tendency of wisdom being lost in knowledge, and knowledge being lost in information. He commented that companies should consider giving new rewards different from conventional wages for their employees who worked on the basis of knowledge.
As I have reported above, this conference emphasized to the audience the importance of knowledge management, and was a great success.