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Japanese Companies and Japanese Society
Japanese technology has been regarded as leading the world in many areas (e.g., microelectronics, consumer electronics, and steel). On the other hand, many innovations originate in the West, particularly in the United States (e.g., microprocessors and computers). This course explores the role of typical Japanese companies and examines the importance of innovation versus product development. We will study the structure of a Japanese company from the perspective of Japanese society. This will lead us to examine the underlying philosophy of the research environment, the expectations placed on individual researchers to achieve company goals, and possible changes in the lifetime employment system. Recently, the great American research laboratories (e.g., Bell Labs and IBM Research) have been dismantled in favor of more practical development. Some Japanese companies, by contrast, have invested in research institutions while maintaining their product development laboratories. As the Japanese economy experiences continued recession, the balance of these philosophies is being reconsidered. Local representatives of Japanese companies, such as Sony and NEC, will be invited to class to help us learn about the attitudes of Japanese researchers and the relationship between Japanese companies and Japanese society.