Vol.3 No.3 2010

Interview : Meta-engineering that promotes innovation−236−Synthesiology - English edition Vol.3 No.3 (2010) management is not in that style. Do you think there are differences in ways the on-site Japanese and American engineers come up with ideas when they’re faced with “the company has this policy, and I want to do this”?(Suzuki) I think there is. I don’t know the reason. Perhaps it is education. In the Japanese elementary school arithmetic class, they ask, “What is 5 plus 7?” However in the States, they ask “what two numbers do you add to get 12?” If it is 5+7, the only answer is 12. I think the Japanese students are fed this type of problems and have grown used to it.I often use the example of a Japanese air conditioner. It is highly efficient. It uses intelligent inverters and heat pumps, and utilizes very fine technology. Also, the hybrid vehicles combine the gasoline internal combustion engine and the battery motor in a sophisticated manner. Since the Japanese are capable of such skills, they try to solve problems in that manner.(Akamatsu) I see, so you suggest meta-engineering because that is what is lacking in propelling innovation in the Japanese science and technology.(Suzuki) We decided to call the effort where the potential issues are found and solved by removing the limitations as “meta-engineering”. We also considered the other names such as “holonic engineering”, “comprehensive engineering”, “ecological engineering”, “transformative engineering”, or “Japanese converging technology”, etc.. However, since we wanted to redefine it as metaphysical engineering as a level above current engineering, we decided to call it “konponteki engineering” in Japanese. The word konponteki translates into “radical” in English, but that may also mean “aggressive” in Japanese, so we call it “meta-engineering” in English.Meta-engineering is to circulate the four processes in a spiral(Akamatsu) You mentioned that the process of finding the issues is important in meta-engineering.(Suzuki) That is the starting point. We call them the four processes. First, one finds a potential issue or buried issue, and then finds the necessary science and technology to solve it. If the issue cannot be solved by current science and technology, the fields and technologies are integrated. Finally, the solution to the issue is implemented. Then, a new issue is found in this process. The image of the four processes turning round and round is important.(Akamatsu) On that “turning round”. It seems that the process of finding a potential issue, selecting the necessary technologies, integrating them, and then solving the actual problem is a complete process in itself. Why do you have to return to the process of finding new issues?(Suzuki) One is that innovation is meaningless unless it continues. As the process turns round and round, society gets better cyclically, or the innovations occur continuously. We want that to happen.(Akamatsu) In that sense, it is a spiral rather than a cyclical feedback. It means that, the world may change by introducing new things, but some other potential issue arises because of that new introduction.The most difficult part, I think, is the discovery of the potential issue, but what is the key point to this?Point in discovering the potential issue(Suzuki) I cannot find a specific plan, but let us think in terms of marketing.A salesman visits a client, and the client says, “I want to drink some juice”. In a Japanese company, the salesman will purchase an expensive juicer and some fresh fruits, makes juice, and takes it to the client. The client is 100 % satisfied and may buy the cup of juice for 10 dollars. However, it actually costs 9 dollars to buy the juicer and the fresh fruits. The cup of juice sells for 10 dollars, so the profit is 1 dollar. In a Japanese company, this is evaluated highly because the customer satisfaction is 100 %.Dr. Hiroshi Suzuki


page 51