"Innovation and knowledge management in contemporary Japan: transforming frailties to strength, seeking prosperity and peace for all"
Monte Cassim came to Japan in 1972 after graduating from the University of Sri Lanka, Colombo, and working in Sri Lanka as a young architect. An alumnus of the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering, where he did his master’s and doctoral studies, Cassim worked in academia in Malaysia and in Japanese industry, before joining the United Nations Centre for Regional Development, where he worked from 1985 until 1994. He joined Ritsumeikan University as Professor in 1994. His research centers on process analysis, systems design and knowledge management to develop “earth-friendly” and “human-friendly” technological solutions at Ritsumeikan’s Discovery Research Laboratory. He assumed his current posts as President of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) and Vice-Chancellor of Ritsumeikan Trust in 2004. He enjoys the slow life (farming) and the fast lane (driving). He is also an avid fan of blues music from the 1920s to the 1960s.
Harnessing creativity and transforming it into wealth is a major challenge for contemporary Japan. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly transforming Asia Pacific region, the presentation will look at both historical strengths and current weaknesses. The former includes Japan’s rich tradition of “monozukuri” or artisanship at the highest level, which has greatly contributed to the nation’s industrial prowess. The latter includes unease with the unusual and a societal inadequacy in drawing their creative elements into the mainstream. The plight of the “akibazoku”, a highly talented cohort of “digital creators” who haunt the Akihabara district, Tokyo’s electronic mecca, is taken as a case in point. This example will be compared with a similar situation facing Japan’s “miya daiku” and “shakan”, the carpenters and masons whose rich tradition sustain many of Japan’s heritage assets. An experiment in social engineering, addressing the structural aspects of these issues, about to be launched at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, will be presented for discussion at the roundtable. It is hoped that this endeavour will indicate ways in which Japan might be able to transform innovative ideas into wealth not just for itself, but as a broader contribution to prosperity and peace for all peoples in the international community.