Cook-Hauptman Associates, Inc.



By: James E. Cook ( 1996 )



Japan, on its own, achieves miracles, while America, on its own, accomplishes wonders. And yet, Japan and America working together seem only able to create misunderstandings. But these parallel tracks of progress cannot persist, for in the next half century, if they cannot work together, the world will polarize and beg calamity too awful to contemplate. And by working together, complementing each other's strengths, they can deliver progress beyond our imagination.

For the past half century, it seems that working together has consisted mainly of wrangling, accusing, castigating, and then frustrating and exasperating.  Sincere efforts only seem to generate obstacles, not remove them. It raises the question: can these superpowers ever accommodate, cooperate, integrate?


The Metaphor of the Missles

The Metaphor of the Missiles illustrates how two different systems of beliefs, one typified by America and the other by Japan, dictate different systems which superficially look and perform alike, but behave very differently and have subtle, but consequential, performance differences.

Shared Goal: Hit the Target

Once there was a missile that flew 1,000 miles and could hit its target within a few hundred yards. Its design was delightfully simple, its operation logical, linear, and sequential. The mantra of its operation was, "Ready, Aim, Fire!" That is, first the missile had to be armed and within range of the target. Second, the missile launcher had to be pointed in the precise direction of the exact coordinates of the target. And third, the missile had to be fired. Once fired, it traveled its predicted flight path and struck near its target. By causing several hundred square yards of collateral damage, it usually hit its target, as well. Nonetheless, it was the triumph of theory, rationality, and discipline. Its designers were proud, for they proved how well they could predict and then execute.

Then there was another missile. It also flew 1,000 miles but it hit its target within a hundred inches. It was not so delightfully simple. It was complex, and its operation was not logical. Its mantra was, "Ready, Fire, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim ... !" Just like the other missile, it had to be armed and be within range of the target. But, unlike the other missile, it was fired even before being precisely aimed! Once fired, it used information it had previously collected (i. e., "homework" in the form of pictures of the terrain up to and including the target) to adjust its aim over and over again, thousands of times, as it flew to its target. The effect of the missile was truly remarkable, it could go right down the smokestack of a targeted building. It caused only the smallest of collateral damage. It was the triumph of empiricism, agility, and persistence. Its designers had to be humble, for they dedicated themselves to the reduction of even the smallest of errors.

Contrasting World Views - One Theoretical, the Other Emperical

The first missile is based on the belief that its trajectory is predictable by (Newton's and others') theory;  the second on the belief its trajectory is empirically attainable by relentless adjustment at the point where the action is (genba).  From this one difference in beliefs, there follows a different structure, method, and behavior.

The launch event is at the center of the first missile's whole operation;  whereas, the second missile doesn't have such a center of operation. Its whole flight path, not to mention the gathering of information beforehand, is all brought into balance with a commitment to the goal, hitting the target. The first missile is made to stay on track, whereas, the second missile is made to get back on track. Relative to their goal, on one important point their behavior is exactly opposite. The first has increasing error all the way to its target, the second has decreasing error all the way to its target! Which is why the first has to make a big smash, whereas the second executes a surgical strike.

Two Different Systems - One Open, The Other Closed

Engineers characterize systems by the kind of control they use.The two most common control systems are Open Loop and Closed Loop. Open Loop control uses force in proportion to the predicted theoretical worse case and uses rigor to make that worse case small. Closed Loop control uses force in proportion to the actual discrepancy which it keeps tiny by relentless adjustment while operating.

Our first missile uses Open Loop control. To insure it hits its target, it carries an extra heavy load of explosives to compensate for the worse case of missing by a couple of hundred yards. The second missile uses Closed Loop control. To hit its target, it carries an extra large load of information (digital pictures of the flight path and target), which it uses for relentless adjusting (e.g., Japanese kaizen) with a minimum of force, ends up with no error at all, and requires no extra load of explosives.

Best engineering results are achieved by combining these two control paradigms. When that happens, good Closed Loop design, generally follows, not precedes, good Open Loop design. That is, in order to know how to make a good Closed Loop design, you need the skill and theory that went into the good Open Loop design. Open Loop designers and Closed Loop designers must collaborate in order to have the best results. More easily said than done.

America and Japan - Not America versus Japan

When America integrated the Japanese Way (Closed Loop) with the traditional American Way (Open Loop), it won the (Gulf) War and triggered a New World Order. Such is the potential of integration of different paradigms. The Open Loop is a powerful beginning and is the root of technological progress. The second is an inevitable maturing and is the root to harmony. But progress and harmony will only arrive when the two are integrated and do and respect what each does best.

As we enter the new millennium, two peoples have the mantle to lead Mankind. Both must come to respect the gain in combining their differences. And both must come to forget the waste in contending their differences. Therein lies the future.


ASPECT America Japan
FOUNDATIONS Theoretical Emperical
METHOD Rigorous Persistent
ORIENTATION Compliance Goal
CONTROL Centralized Distributed
MEANS Force Harmony

Table 1

Hostages of History

This is the end of the first third of the article. The other two-thirds are on hold. (Steve: For the second third, I want to track Buddha/Confucius vs Aristotle/Plato and the impact on Eastern thought versus Western thought. And for the last third, I'll have concrete suggestions in closing, e.g., better policies regarding all places where East and West could come together, from tourism to regional security.)




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