After speaking at the Business Innovation Forum in Japan, I did some thinking about the unique form of technology leadership found in Japan.
Japan has been going through some tough times economically… but it’s important to reflect on the unique strengths of Japan with respect to the digital age and the emerging global network culture. If you study the “hits” that have come from Japan from a Silicon Valley perspective.
One of the biggest “hits” from Japan lately is the Nintendo “Wii” console. I’ve been playing with the Wii Fit balance board this weekend and find that it’s quite an amazing extension of the immersive technology first seen in the Wii console. This goes beyond the kind of early-90’s “virtual reality” goggles immersion and gets closer to haptic and cybernetic interface that maps to an understanding of kinesthetics. How can kinesthetics impact the human/technology interface? Yoga is a “technology” that has been developed in Asia for at least 5000 years. Yoga explores the connection between the body and mind–so what can computer add to this? The Wii Fit console provides instruction, guidance and tracking of goals that stretch from weeks to months to years–a personalized experience of your own body. The quality of the yoga instruction isnt comparable to, say raviana.com, but this is for beginners working on basics.
What’s uniquely japanese about the Nintendo Wii? A great many things, including the connection to the fantasy universe of Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto. But the distinguishing feature that I think is both exportable worldwide and deeply japanese is the harmony between human nature and the machine world.
One of the roots of Western thought is the philosophy of Descartes, whose philosophy proposed a separation between the mind and the body (mind-body dualism). Another separation that is fundamental in western thought as documented in the Old Testament is the position of humans as distinct from animals–made in God’s image and assigned to rule over the animals of the earth. The philosophy that illuminates Japanese theology is Shinto, which is animistic–in which spirit occupies humans and nature in equal measure. Now I’m only highlighting these differences because I believe the combination of the human and the natural is reflected in the Japanese approach to technology.
Japan has leadership in climate modeling supercomputers. The robot dog, Aibo was born and bred in Japan. The Toyota Prius, the worlds most popular hybrid car. The ability to blend the technological, the natural and yes, the spiritual aspects of human experience is part of Japanese technology leadership.
One aspect of Japanese technology that is hard to export is the social aspect. Whether it’s the famous shinkansen high speed rail system or the iMode cell phone ecosystem–it’s hard to separate technology adoption from technology invention.
The ability to blend the world of technology with the world of nature gives me confidence that SOA Governance will take root in Japan… The ability to combine an understanding of human nature, tribalism, organizational behavior and advanced technology will be a key driver in the adoption of these technologies in Japan.
My 2 cents,