ISSN 2050-5337 - ISSUE 4

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Tuesday, 03 December 2013 11:40

Introduction to KJ-Ho - a Japanese problem solving approach

Written by
Prof. Jiro Kawakita Prof. Jiro Kawakita

The KJ Ho (Method) is a creative thinking and problem solving methodology, which was originally invented by Japanese cultural anthropologist, Professor Jiro Kawakita (1920-2009). It has gone through over half a century’s development and refinement as a result of applications to many kinds of complex and unique problems in Japan. This article is an up-to-date presentation of the current state of the KJ Ho by those who have contributed to its recent developments and improvements.

Written by Professor Toshio Nomura, Professor Susumu Kunifuji, Dr Mikio Naganobu, Dr Susumu Maruyama & Professor Motoki Miura.

This research was in part supported by Nomi City.

Abstract

The KJ Ho (Method) is a creative thinking and problem solving methodology, which was originally invented by Japanese cultural anthropologist, Professor Jiro Kawakita (1920-2009). It has gone through over half a century’s development and refinement as a result of applications to many kinds of complex and unique problems in Japan. This article is an up-to-date presentation of the current state of the KJ Ho by those who have contributed to its recent developments and improvements.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. (Charles Darwin)

Background

This article is the first presentation of the KJ Ho (Method) in English, including some detailed explanations and examples of basic steps and recent cases. The KJ Ho is the creative thinking and problem solving methodology that was originally invented by the late Professor Jiro Kawakita (1920-2009), a well-established cultural anthropologist in Japan; hence the use of his initials KJ (Figure 1 - Prof Jiro Kawakita).

In March 2011, Tohoku, Japan experienced unprecedented, natural and artificial disasters following an earthquake and tsunami, resulting in nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima 1 nuclear power station. Since then, the majority of nuclear power stations in Japan have been shut down for thorough examinations. This has led to a comprehensive rethinking of electricity supply across the country with 30% less electricity available than before. The earthquake damaged a large number of manufacturing facilities in the Tohoku area, responsible for the production of various key manufacturing components. This has resulted in the suspension of some operations in automotive manufacturing plants globally for many months. A similar incident occurred after severe flooding hit Thailand in June 2011, affecting the global electronics industry.

The rise of emerging countries has been significantly changing the international industry landscape. This trend has dramatically changed the dynamics of global industries, which continue to grow increasingly more complex. It is clear that the world is far more connected and in flux than it was a couple of decades ago and incidents like those mentioned above can have massive global consequences. As Jiro Kawakita stated over 20 years ago, ‘the complexity of our world has far outstripped any ready-made theories or hypotheses, and a priori assumptions and wishful thinking are useless’ (Kawakita, 1991). We believe that the KJ Ho is a useful tool in dealing with a world growing increasingly complex, with its diverse and flexible approach to problem solving.

The KJ Ho has gone through over half a century’s development and refinement as the result of applications to many kinds of complex and unique problems in Japan. It has a fundamental capability of tolerating exceptional circumstances, rather than excluding them. As individuals who have contributed to the KJ Ho’s past and present developments and improvements, we feel that now is an appropriate time to present the current state of the KJ Ho, correctly and concisely.

It is important to note that in this English version of the KJ Ho article, the traditional translation of ‘Ho’ to ‘Method’ has not been used, as we felt that it lacked some of the principles and mental aspects associated with ‘KJ Ho’. For this reason, we decided to maintain the original Japanese KJ (KJ Ho). We hope that this naming will settle down as de facto, as many other Japanese words have, such as Judo, Kaizen, Kansei, Karaoke, Sushi, Zen, etc.

This article is based on a seminar at the Anthropology Department of University College London and a workshop at the Creativity Centre Educational Trust (CCET) in Leeds in November 2011.


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