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Can Japan Compete? [Hardcover]

Michael E. Porter , Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi , Professor Mariko Sakakibara
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 July 2000
Can Japan Compete? is a major new development of Michael Porter's theory of competitive positioning, in which he examines the 'two Japans' - one highly competitive and one highly uncompetitive. Porter draws upon previously unseen research to set the record straight on what did and did not happen during the 'Japanese Miracle'. This book represents a major contribution to the understanding of Japan and a major new strategic analysis from the world's leading thinker on strategy.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Printing Writing in Book edition (14 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333786580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333786581
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 16 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 950,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

Can Japan Compete?, business guru Michael Porter's first book for almost a decade, could scarcely be timelier, arriving on the shelves at a moment in Japanese corporate history when many an awkward chicken is coming home to roost, causing collapse and consolidation on a previously unimaginable scale. It addresses at some length a very Japanese enigma. How could an economy with so many apparently fiercely competitive industries have a hidden, darkly uncompetitive side to it?

Porter and his co-authors set out to challenge the conventional wisdom on the driving forces behind national competitiveness in Japan, and show that Japan is not a special case. "Its industries succeed not when the government manages competition but when it allows competition to flourish. For various political and cultural reasons, it has been appealing to believe that Japan had invented a new and intrinsically superior form of capitalism, one more controlled and egalitarian than the Western vision," say the authors. What they claim to have found instead is that none of the conventional wisdom is true. Japan's much-celebrated bureaucratic capitalism is not the cause of the country's success. In fact, it is most closely associated with the nation's failures.

Can Japan Compete? sets off at a brisk pace that quickly proves difficult for the authors to sustain. Sharp prose gives way to hard data and plentiful charts. Stick with it, though. In among the thickets of facts and figures there still lurks an array of interesting propositions, leading up to a simple and pretty incontestable final statement. If mindsets in Japan change, the nation has the capacity to move rapidly. --Brian Bollen

Review

'Michael Porter is one of the world's most influential authorities on corporate strategy.' - Independent on Sunday

'Porter is the single most important strategist working today, and maybe of all time.' - Kevin Coyne, McKinsey & Co, Fortune

'Takeuchi...ranks among the intellectual leaders of the younger, globally minded generation that is coming to power in Japan.' - Fortune

'This excellent book is definitely a must read. Business people will have a clear idea of what specific problems need to be resolved if they apply the analysis results and future directions suggested in the book to their own company situation.' - Yomiuri Weekly, of Japanese language edition

'The unique feature of this book is the meticulous examination into the activities of individual firms in our country.This is one book that every business person should read.' - JMA Management Review, of Japanese language edition
'America's top business guru...Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School is...consultant to the world on what makes economies hum. His status as an international authority on the right way to manage rests on a quarter of a century of mining data from the corporate coalface.' - The Times

'He's one of the two or three so-called gurus on competitiveness who've had more impact over the past 50 years than anyone else.' - Leo Murray, Director, Cranfield School of Management

'...an important contribution to policy thinking - not only in Japan.' - Tom Hardiman, Intermedia

'Michael Porter has summarised in a masterly fashion the key factors that lie behind Japan's economic and corporate success and present problems.' - Strategy

'Based on extensive research the book carries sound analysis and a clarion call to action. The current situation can be turned around and this book shows clearly the way ahead for Japan. For those with an interest in the future of one of the world's largest economies, this is a must read.' - Marketing Business

'Porter (is) the world's foremost authority on corporate strategy.' - South China Morning Post

'A master class on the performance of the post war 'Japanese economic miracle'...one of the best written, clearly presented, well referenced and easily read volumes that one is ever likely to find on this complex subject...A first class read.' - Engineering Management Journal

'A clearly substantiated and well-researched contribution to a clearer understanding of the Japanese economy and culture.' - Business Age

'The detailed research that has gone into this book gives it a more solid foundation than others in the field...the proposals for corporations bear close scrutiny as they aren't just a wholesale selling of Anglo-Saxon practices. The authors...offer a more balanced prescription that gives value to the long-term approach Japanese business has always had.' - World Link

'Michael Porter is a guru. In the overcrowded parking lot of management gurus he is the flaming red one with a turbo charged, 32 valve, three litre engine, a GURU1 number plate and a CD changer in the boot. Porter, a professor at Harvard Business School, has not only taught generations of ambitious executives how to run business better, but his CV reads more like Henry Kissinger's diary than the life of an average academic.' - Neil Bennett, Sunday Telegraph

'Can Japan Compete?...took almost eight years to complete and represents a major contribution to the understanding of Japan. It also offers a set of ideas that can guide economic policy and corporate practice in any country.' - Euro Business

'Porter is the undisputed global authority on strategic management thinking and national competitive advantage and his views on the future of the Japanese economy should be worth reading.' Carol Kennedy, Business Highlights, Booksellers' Buyers Guide 2000

'This is good stuff! Not only is it a timely - and critical - reminder that choosing, occupying and staying in a unique position is an essential part of competitive strategy, but it is also a classic part of the continuing academic debate on strategy...Michael Porter must have enjoyed writing this book and...you should enjoy reading it.' - The Antidote

'Michael E. Porter is an undoubted Business guru.' - The Good Book Guide

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Not so long ago, the entire world stood in awe of Japan's postwar economic miracle. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reviving the competitive advantage of Japan 15 Mar 2003
Format:Hardcover
Michael Porter is Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and a leading authority on competition and strategic management; Hirotaka Takeuchi is Professor and Dean of the new Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy at Hitotsubashi University in Japan; and Mariko Sakakibara is Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"This book aims first and foremost to offer a theory that can explain and interpret Japan's postware economic trajectory." This 'theory' follows a mostly academical and economical research method. In Chapter 1 the authors first discuss Japan's economical history, whereby the authors use extensive graphs, figures and tables to prove their point: "Japan's actual competitive performance, then, has been mixed for decades." Expanding on their discussion on the economical history, the authors challenge the Japanese government model. "At the core of the Japanese government model is a particular conception of the process of economic development and the bases of competitiveness. It embodies an implicit aversion to certain forms of competition and an effort to channel competition in various ways." This model goes back to the early post-World War II period, when "the nation was in shambles". There is an 12 developmental policies list which form the building blocks of the Japanese governmental model. The authors discuss the impact of these policies on Japan's successes and failures.
In Chapter 3, the authors discuss Japan's unique management model. "The model stresses attributes such as teamwork, a long time horizon, and dedication to continuous quality improvement, all of which remain important Japanese strengths.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 7 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
It is difficult to criticise and reject a piece of work when the approach to research is so well structured. Although it reads at a fast pace the early chapters are somewhat heavy on explaining principles of micro-economics and at times you may find re-reading a number of pages. However, on a more general note I enjoyed reading chapters identifying causes of recession of Japan, and likened the conclusions here to Clayton Christenson's concepts of disruptive technologies. The concept offered being that Japan's recession is to blame on industry and govt ignoring upstarts in countries once considered as unable to progress or compete against Japan's core competencies; computer related manufacturing.Overall a very enjoyable read.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good: relevent to modern economics and politics 29 Oct 2000
Format:Hardcover
I'm gonna keep this short and sweet, as advised in the book. In this tour de force of Japanese Politics and economics, and her position on the on the world stage. Worth while (if a little jargon filled) particularly if studying economics from beyond A-level/As, as I am. This puts lots of theory (usually within macro-economics) into practice. Make sure that if you're gonna read it, you're sure you want to. Not for the undetermined.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Big on Name...Intelectually Poor 20 July 2001
Format:Hardcover
Reading the titile 'Can Japan Compete', I was looking forward for some intelectually stimulating pages to follow.
However, I was disappointed to be disappointed.
First, most of the suggestions provided by Porter towards the end, are basic issues in a capitalistic economy operating in any country. Nothing new if they are said by some one named Porter.
Second, Porter, again, missed his date with the subject called 'context'. The present Japanese economic structure is the result of what the nation faced after the world war. A daunting task to rebuild a nation. And in 50 years, that structure has provided Japan with globally competing firms and its people enjoying one of the best standard of living what mankind has to offer. But alas, Porter, again, turns his blind eye to this.
The one star that I give is for the hard work done by assistants who must have spent countless hours assembling the relevant data.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.1 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Objective, well-organized, and well-researched 21 Feb 2010
By B. Fredrickson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As someone who has worked in Japan for nearly 2 years, I found this book very accurate as far as its depiction of the Japanese work culture and corporate model. Also, this book provides a good background of Japan's economic growth after World War II and what it will take for Japan to continue to thrive as a developed economy in the 21st century. This book is well organized and balanced, providing insight about both Japanese government policy and best practices of private industry.

However, I didn't agree with two of the book's assertions: (1) that Japan is weak in basic sciences, specifically chemistry, and (2) that government policies did not play a role in helping Japanese auto manufacturers become globally competitive. As far as Japan's perceived weakness in chemistry, the authors point to the lack of Japanese Nobel Prize winners in the field. However, in order to make this conclusion (about chemistry) the authors overlooked companies such as Toray, the global leader in advanced composite materials, whose motto is "innovation by chemistry." They also overlooked the fact that Japan is a globally competitive in solar power systems and fuel cell technologies, both of which are hugely dependent on competence in chemistry. As far as the success of Japanese auto manufacturers, it is no secret that gas is and has been substantially taxed and that government mandated emission standards have been more stringent than many other countries. It is difficult to believe that these policies had no influence on the shaping of these companies, who now lead in vehicle efficiency.

However, in spite of these disagreements, this book is worth reading.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dead On 26 July 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I work for a Japanese company that is mentioned in this book and the book is a dead on diagnosis of how Japanese companies are managed. For anyone familiar with the current Japanese economy (which is in a huge depression) there are some major problems with how the Japanese economy operates. There is nothing inherently genius about the solution that Porter offers, which is simply a call for a true free market system in Japan; free of tariffs, trade barriers, cartels, and collusion. However, if you work for a Japanese company I strongly suggest buying this book to understand why your company is managed the way it is.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Japan¡¯s success and failure in light of business strategy 16 Aug 2002
By Suckwoo Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
...
Michael Porter become the celebrity in the field of business strategy with his two books, ¡®Competitive Advantage¡¯, ¡®Competitive Strategy¡¯. Takeuchi and Sakakibara secured their name in organizational learning school with their book, ¡®The Knowledge-Creating Company.¡¯ With this book, ¡®the word, ¡®knowledge creation¡¯ has been widely circulated within business schools.
This book poses the question, ¡®Why does Japan stumble?¡¯ it¡¯s the single most popular subject in Japanese studies. Numerous books come to mind on that issue. The approach this book takes is, nonetheless, unique. While others have tackled it in the view of macroeconomics or political economy, authors of this book take the view of microeconomics, or more precisely business strategy. They argue that more-than-decade-long deflation and liquidity trap are not the fundamental problem, but just symptoms. The underlying problem must be hunted for elsewhere: the eroded competitive advantage of Japanese companies. There has been warning signs since 1980s well before bubble bursting:
1. Since 1980s, no new internationally competitive industry has emerged.
2. The profitability, or capital productivity has long been low. Export share has been achieved and maintained partly by sacrificing returns to capital.
3. Japan¡¯s share of world exports peaked in 1986 (10%). But it has fallen since then to below 8%.
Bubble and subsequent financial meltdown certainly is serious trouble. But above reveals much deeper crisis: the loss of competitiveness.
Michael Porter maintains that firms initially gain competitive advantage by altering the basis of competition. They won not just by recognizing new market, or technologies but by moving aggressively to exploit the,. A firm¡¯s local rivalry in home nation plays a critical role in shaping manager¡¯s perceptions about the opportunities that can be exploited. Firms that survive vigorous local competition are often more efficient and innovative. In the 1970s and 80s, Japan set the world standard for operational effectiveness, that is, for improving quality and lowering cost: TQM, JIT system, lean production, cycle time reduction. Japanese companies pushed the productivity frontier well beyond the capabilities of many Western companies. Japanese companies¡¯ competitive advantage was obtained through cut-throat local competition. But starting in the mid- and late 1980s, the gap between Japanese and Western companies began to narrow through so-called restructuring or reengineering. Now Japan¡¯s source of competitiveness has been eroded away. As a result, international competition has ever more vigorously intensified not in the behalf of Japan. Worse, what drove Japan to be competitive now serve as drag on it. Fierce local rivalry degrade into competitive convergence. It means that all the competitors in an industry compete on the same dimension. As rivals imitate one another¡¯s improvements in quality, cycle time, or supplier partnerships, competition becomes a series of unwinnable races down identical paths. This occurs because Japanese firms believe that by mimicking competitors¡¯ technologies and products, they can avoid being in a weak positioning in the market. Because, as a result of mutual benchmarking, Japanese companies cannot but think of competition only in terms of operational effectiveness for their product lineup converges, the have made it almost impossible to be enduringly successful. The more benchmarking, the more they look alike. To avoid such a stalemate, they try to diversify product lineup. But it inflames only to another round of convergence. This kind of local rivalry has finally led to excess costs to over-differentiation for products as well as their components. Such costs have become too high, thus leading to a considerable waste of resources. When they set the best practices, such a cost could be dissipated at the expense of Western competitor¡¯s market share. But now such an advantage rarely exists, if any. Competitive convergence leads to the lack of focus. The lack of focus results in no obvious competitive advantage for they are over-diversified. Authors recommend to compete on strategy: Operational effectiveness is just one of two ways a company pursues superior performance. The other is through strategy, or competing on the basis of a unique positioning involving a distinctive product of service offering. The essence of strategy is to perform differently from rivals. It¡¯s choosing not to do something. They succumb to the temptation to chase easy growth by adding popular features and taking on product lines or services that do not fit their strategy. Or they target new customers to whom the company offers noting unique. But attempting to compete in several ways at once creates confusion and undermines organizational motivation and focus. Profits fall, so more revenue is seen as the answer. In sum, authors argues that the problem of Japan is more in mind-set than in unchangeable circumstances in Japan.
2.0 out of 5 stars Japan competitiveness 2 Jan 2012
By Vince Lowe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an interesting book, but it seems to really grasp one or two key elements of Japanese culture and then try to apply it to the rest of the foreseeable future. This book misses the fact that the Japanese people are some of the most hard working and resilient cultures in the world.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reviving the competitive advantage of Japan 11 Dec 2001
By Gerard Kroese - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Michael Porter is Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and a leading authority on competition and strategic management; Hirotaka Takeuchi is Professor and Dean of the new Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy at Hitotsubashi University in Japan; and Mariko Sakakibara is Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"This book aims first and foremost to offer a theory that can explain and interpret Japan's postware economic trajectory." This 'theory' follows a mostly academical and economical research method. In Chapter 1 the authors first discuss Japan's economical history, whereby the authors use extensive graphs, figures and tables to prove their point: "Japan's actual competitive performance, then, has been mixed for decades." Expanding on their discussion on the economical history, the authors challenge the Japanese government model. "At the core of the Japanese government model is a particular conception of the process of economic development and the bases of competitiveness. It embodies an implicit aversion to certain forms of competition and an effort to channel competition in various ways." This model goes back to the early post-World War II period, when "the nation was in shambles". There is an 12 developmental policies list which form the building blocks of the Japanese governmental model. The authors discuss the impact of these policies on Japan's successes and failures.
In Chapter 3, the authors discuss Japan's unique management model. "The model stresses attributes such as teamwork, a long time horizon, and dedication to continuous quality improvement, all of which remain important Japanese strengths. But it has also encouraged conformity and a conception of competition that is dangerously incomplete." Again, the authors introduce a list of policies which are typical for the Japanese corporate model. The authors' biggest complaint is that most Japanese companies do not have a strategy, they tend to compete on operational effectiveness. (For more see Porter's 1996-article 'What is Strategy?')
In Chapter 4 the authors try to explain Japanese competitiveness. This model for competitiveness follows the universal model: "vigorous competition in a supportive business environment, free of government direction, is the only path to economic vitality." Most of this chapter is directly taken from Porter's 1990-book 'The Competitive Advantage of Nations', discussing various industries (both successful and unsuccessful).
In Chapter 5, 6, and 7 the authors aim to come up with an answer to move Japan forward. The authors discuss the requirements for both government and companies. "What is needed is nothing short of a new economic strategy, one that builds on the true bases of Japan's past success, recognizes the differences between the country's rebuilding challenges and its present circumstances, and addresses the realities of modern global competition." So can Japan compete? The authors believe it can. "Japan has a history of competing successfully at the highest level and rapidly advancing national productivity, when competition was allowed to proceed unfettered. ... Japan can compete. To do so, however, it will require the systematic changes in both business and government we have described. ... As it has shown in earlier periods of transition, if mind-sets change, Japan has the capacty to move rapidly."
Yes, I do understand the disappointment of some of the other readers. In line with Michael Porter's 'The Competitive Advantage of Nations' (1990) this book is more about governmental issues than the activities within companies as in Porter's bestsellers 'Competitive Strategy' (1980) and 'Competitive Advantage' (1985). In their search for their answer to the title-question (Can Japan Compete?) the authors use an mostly academical and economical approach, which can be daunting to some readers. The book is mostly aimed at Japanese multinationals, economists, and governmental officials, and includes some strong critical comments toward their policies.
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