Deep Thinking Forum: the Artisan Spirit of Japanese Enterprises and Its Enlightenment

Alumni and External Relations Office    2019-03-25

The exploration of self-depth on technique, considerable confidence in his own works, no compromise because of money or time constraints, making full efforts to complete a work, as long as he promises to take, and even if it ultimately leads to loss of profit…this “shokunin kishitsu” is called “artisan spirit” or “craftsmanship” in China.

Artisan spirit is, above all, a state of mind and an unremitting will to explore the law, pursue perfection and pay attention to details. It is a rational paranoia, not superstition or arrogance. Rationality is a scientific spirit of doing right things and doing things right; paranoia is a spirit of one-track mind and a tendency of endless extremes.

For example, Toyota workers’ meticulous decomposition of movements, constant improvement of the process and enthusiasm for detail improvement, as well as the rationalization suggestion system that accumulates over time and the organization that inherits the continuous improvement function are all manifestations of “paranoia”.

From the perspective of cultural traditions, the small and narrow territory and scarcity of resources, plus the long-term feudal system, may be the main reasons for the development of Japanese artisan spirit.

Among global companies that have a history of more than 200 years, Japanese companies account for 56%. The secret of longevity is mostly “credit”, followed by “honesty”. In order to avoid corporate decline caused by the unfilial and incapable descendants, most family enterprises choose adopted sons with outstanding ethics, characters and ability to inherit the enterprises.

In the context of rapid growth, some Chinese business managers have formed a concept of speculation, which is short-sighted and eager for quick success and instant benefit, attempting to achieve something in one stroke; their thinking styles are general and vague, not tight and meticulous; their psychological state is capricious and profit-oriented. Some enterprises also have problems, such as focusing their operations on short-term goals, having no time to consider long-term goals related to core competencies, relying too much on data management, just looking at the outcome rather than the process, and paying no attention to the self-management of employees and the democratic management of teams.

To achieve high-quality development of the Chinese economy and enterprises, the artisan spirit of Japanese companies is worth learning from and taking as reference.

Keynote Speaker: Professor Wang Zhiping, Director of Comprehensive Research Institute, Professor of Business and Accounting, Sapporo University

Moderator: Professor Yu Mingyang, Professor and Doctoral Supervisor of Antai College of Economics & Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Director of Shanghai Institute for National Economy (SHINE), SJTU

Special Guests:

Professor Chen Xian, Professor of Department of Applied Economics, Antai College of Economics & Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Professor Zheng Xingshan, Professor of Department of Operational Management, Antai College of Economics & Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Time: 13:30-16:00, March 25 (Monday), 2019

Venue: Room A409, Pao Siu Loong Library, Xuhui Campus, SJTU

Host: Shanghai Institute for National Economy (SHINE), SJTU