Learning School Common to Countries and Businesses with Limited Resources?
R.M. Tappin, Member
Not exactly, James; what you are describing was described by Drucker (1985) as "creative imitation" - a strategy used by the entrepreneurial schoo
l. The Japanese were the best at this, doing exactly what you describe. The learning school is described as being suited to people who are inclined to experimentation, adaptability and ambiguity (Mintzberg, 1999), such as the Japanese and Scandanavians. It would take a great deal of resources for organizations to commit to experimentation. It is from this process that learning emerges.
Creative imitators are “customer-centric” – they look at products or services from the point of view of the customer and they do not go after the market that is already being served by a competitor; instead they go after the under served – unexploited opportunities - in that market (Drucker, 1985). A long-view historical perspective must be applied to the Japanese as creative imitators; for example, when American car makers dominated the market and were making huge, gas guzzling cars the Japanese decided to enter the US auto market with smaller gas-efficient cars – serving a neglected market segment within that industry. They did the same with other products using existing US technology (making quartz in watches standard, electronics, office products for small businesses, etc). However, while they excelled at this and while this was a dominant strategy, US firms also engage in the practice to some extent; but, since creative imitation hinges on innovation that has already been introduced to the market in a limited way, as a country the US as a whole cannot really be counted as such since the country itself is a leader in innovation. I am sure that individual firms in all countries use this strategy to the extent that their resources allow, but as a whole Japanese firms excelled at this.