Courage to Change Japanese-style Business in Crisis (1992)
"A Society that Reveres its Engineers"
I had an opportunity to have breakfast with Margaret Thatcher on one of her visits to Japan. She was rumored to be very bright, and her conversation was certainly entertaining. She talked about how much she had been looking forward to experiencing a typhoon but was disappointed to learn that it had veered away from Tokyo.
I almost said, “you are stronger than any Japanese typhoon”, but held back and continued with breakfast.
She then said, “Mr. Morita, do you have any advise for my country?” I answered, “my advise for your country is to build a society that reveres its engineers.” England laid the foundations of physics and I have tremendous respect for England’s scientists. In fact, in England scientists are highly respected, and yet engineers are not so well thought of, and are treated as a rank below the scientist. I told her ‘industry will not develop in a country that doesn’t care for its engineers.’
In America too, with such engineers as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, there should be more respect, and yet the profession is overshadowed by business school graduates and lawyers. There are many US companies started by engineers such as Westinghouse, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard, and they continue to flourish. I think that manufacturing companies with top management schooled in manufacturing and technology do very well, and whether I’m in the US, with Mrs. Thatcher, in England, France or wherever, this is a point I continue to emphasize.
Germany reveres its engineers and is a strong industrial power. Look at Japanese manufacturing. At its heart are engineers. In my opinion, the production of high quality products in Japan is the result of the exhaustive efforts of its engineers.
What is wrong with working hard to manufacture products at an affordable price? Moreover, Japanese makers produce locally, using local resources. Is there a problem with that?
Europe, however, doesn’t appear satisfied with that. I thought the problem might be the rate of local parts procurement, but after enquiring about the matter, found it not to be the case.
I spent a lot of time debating the issue until I came across one opinion that said, “our rules of competition and yours are not the same.” This came as a big shock to me.
( Extract from" Nijuisseki e " (Towards the 21st Century), published by WAC)