Monthly message for our employee May.2007

a monthly magazine for our employee May.2007

The Potential of the e-Community

On a Saturday in March, there was an e-Community forum at the Tokyo headquarters. At the end of every fiscal period, new and old e-Community leaders review the current state of play and present their objectives for the next period, but at the suggestion of the e-Community leaders, those engineers who have consistently submitted contributions were this year invited to participate. Be it a president’s seminar, an overnight in-service course, or a manager’s seminar, hearing directly from the engineers on the front line about their day-to-day thoughts and what they’re thinking about is the greatest possible stimulus for management. This occasion was yet another stimulating day, on multiple levels. I found myself drawn unconsciously to the ideas that overflowed here and there from the presentations by new and old e-Community leaders, and by the enthusiasm in the sessions participated in by engineers from all around the country.

Working on the proposition of how to create a mechanism to link 6,000 engineers in a support network was not in fact something that started with the e-Community. If I jog the memories of the senior engineers, they should recall a number of things the engineers and the company have tried since the Company’s inception.

Thousands of engineers in a diversity of fields, from automobiles to electronics, industrial machinery, precision equipment, and semiconductors, are daily amassing valuable experience as professional engineers and acquiring a wealth of technology and knowledge. At the same time, they’re overcoming a diversity of problems and impediments associated with technological development. If all Meitec engineers were able to share that expertise, rather than it just sit with individuals, we’d become a much stronger collective of professional engineers. The greatest barrier in working on the proposition, however, has been how several thousand engineers can communicate and share information. We’ve tried a variety of things, but each time the attempts have faded out due to the limits of information infrastructure built on paper media or telephones and faxes.

Our e-Community started from the perspective that the Internet might become the infrastructure that could overcome these limits and impediments. Three years have passed since we moved to full operation, and compared to the anticipated arrival point, we’re still probably only one or two-tenths along the way.

At this most recent e-Community forum, however, I felt a sense of hope that perhaps buds are steadily beginning to sprout. Among several hopes, the greatest is the possibility of a mechanism to link engineer with engineer. There are both advantages and disadvantages to digital communication. The particular advantages of the e-Community are instantaneousness and simultaneity, while the negatives are the limits of communication via text data, or expressed another way, the limits of faceless communication, and restrictions on volume of information. The same may be said for e-mail, but digital communication that’s built on existing human relatedness (analogue relationships) is communication in which between-the-line nuances are readily conveyed, but for people who don’t know each other by face or name, digital communication will never be more than superficial communication, and can invite misunderstandings. For that reason, when both digital and analogue links are established is when good communication is established.

There were papers presented at the e-Community forum that either envisaged or dealt with real examples of the e-Community as a system that enables engineers to develop in-house networks. Specifically, the papers dealt with the fact that the presenters had come to know other EC engineers using digital communication through the e-Community. There was never an intention to invite such statements, but the nuance that came through was that the presenters had come to realize the effectiveness of the e-Community as a means for linking up with engineers they wanted to know. What I sensed was that the engineers themselves had begun to realize that the greatest potential for digital communication might not be in instantaneousness and simultaneity, but perhaps in the search function. I felt very keenly that the evolution that’s occurring in the world of the Internet is about to occur in the e-Community.

We can expect to have to pass through many more twists and turns before we arrive at the place we’re aiming for, but I sensed a step being taken in the right direction in the attitudes of the medium-ranked and senior engineers who appeared delighted with the words of the engineers in their twenties as they declared that the leaders of the e-Community would be them, the younger generation.

May, 2007