September 28, 2020

A Visionary's Perspective - Unraveling the Innovations and Corporate Management Philosophy of OMRON through the Thoughts of OMRON's Founder, Kazuma Tateishi

Episode 3 : Constructing the “SINIC Theory”, predicting the future, as a manager predicts the future

In this series of articles with 8 episodes, we trace the thoughts and speculations of OMRON's founder, Kazuma Tateishi, a rare technologically minded executive, and looks at the background to his growth and business philosophy.

In this third installment, we discuss the "SINIC Theory" that Kazuma, whose motto was "a manager is a person who predicts the future," developed in order to foresee the future society and identify the social issues that change with the times, which are indispensable for developing business ahead of the world. How did Kazuma constructed the "future-oriented way of thinking" that was conceived 50 years ago which is still valid today, and what kind of future did he envision?

"A compass to help predict the future" sought by Kazuma, who is the first to catch the changes of the times

In 1968, Japan ranked second in the world in terms of GNP (gross national product) and in the following year's New Year Message, Kazuma said as follows, "Now Japan has finally joined the ranks of the developed nations and the era that Japan just follow the models of its predecessors and the developed nations has passed. In the past, we could get by as long as we brought technologies from other nations, however since we have joined the ranks of the developed nations and need to compete with Western countries from the same starting line, we have no more models to follow. We have only our creativity and originality. If we don't have that kind of power, we can't compete in the world. We need to acquire the wisdom to see things from a comprehensive perspective and the ability to predict the future.

Recently, people often talk about futurology, which predict the future. From now on, it is necessary to study futurology. Business administration is the study of the past that emerged from the law of survival of the fittest. As long as we stand at the starting line, we must study futurism to compete with the developed nations that have advanced without models. This is the era of futurology, which will replace the boom in business administration about 10 years ago, and it will give us hints. Futurology is also a creation science. The discontinuity described in "The Age of Discontinuity" by Dr. Peter F. Drucker is transforming the structure of politics, economy and society. We live in an age in which it is no longer possible to conclude deductively from past ideas and experiences, and the conventional line of thinking that the future is an extension of the present is being disrupted. To achieve this, we need to be creative."

A year later, at the Kyoto International Future Research Conference, held from April 10 to 16, 1970, OMRON presented its future prediction theory, "SINIC Theory".

The SINIC Theory: predicting the future through the interrelationships of science, technology and society

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Read more about the SINIC theory here

The acronym "SINIC" in the "SINIC theory" stands for "Seed-Innovation to Need-Impetus Cyclic Evolution", which means "the circular development of technological innovation".

The basic idea of the SINIC theory is that science, technology, and society interact with each other as they develop. This interaction can go in two directions: from seeds (the seeds passed from new science to new technologies) to innovation, where the impact of innovation drives the transformation of society; and the other one is the opposite direction, where new needs in society encourage the development of new technologies to meet those needs, and if they cannot be solved by existing science and technology, they serve as a stimulus for new science to be born.

The idea that these two orientations are in a circular relationship, being both cause and effect of each other, and that their interaction leads to the development of society is at the core of SINIC theory. In addition, the fact that the driving force of evolution is human beings' "progress-oriented motivation" (the own desire to grow) is typical of Kazuma's attitude who always believed in human potential.

For example, automatic control technology was the reason for the innovation of society in the past, when it shifted from mechanization to automation, and it was control science that provided the seed for this innovation. On the other hand, there was a new science called Cybernetics, which was inspired by automatic control technology.

Cybernetics, also known as Study of Artificial Brains, proposed by Dr. Norbert Wiener in 1947, is a science that integrates 15 to 16 different disciplines, including mathematics, medicine, chemistry, and physics, to elucidate the functioning of the human brain nervous system. In addition, Cybernetics became the seed for the development of a new technology called Cybernation, which combines control and computer technology. The addition of communication technology to Cybernation gave birth to electronic control technology, also known as the 3C's, which combined these technologies and promoted the informatization of society.

In the early 1970s, when computers were still in their infancy, Kazuma was convinced of the growth of the information technology business, and he invested in this field with confidence. He founded a professional company, Tateishi Software Corporation (now OMRON SOFTWARE Co., Ltd.), which contributed to the development of Japan's information society.

At the beginning of his presentation at the Kyoto International Future Research Conference, Kazuma said, "Some people may find it somewhat strange that a businessperson would present such a paper. However, I believe that the most important task of business management is research and development and creating new markets for the future through them. That research and development is done by stimulating social needs. Therefore, our important task as managers is to grasp the needs of the future society as well as modern society as soon as possible. To do so, we need to determine how the future society will be transformed. I even believe that conventional business administration is the 'business administration of the past'. This is because my motto as a manager is 'A manager is someone who predicts the future'."

The future toward an autonomous society through cybernation and optimization

The recent years has been called the age of VUCA*, and it is difficult to see what the future holds. The major trend in society as a whole is that we are moving past the period when economic growth was seen as the right thing to do, with an emphasis on goods and money, which were the symbols of affluence in our industrial and information-oriented society, to an optimized society that is heart-centered.

The new society is expected to lead to an "autonomous society" by 2025, and the problems of the industrial and information-oriented society, such as the centralized social structure, regional disparities, and the disintegration of communities, are expected to be resolved under the new value system. The prevalence of economy and interest in the circular economy, which is recyclable and permanently recycled and reused, symbolize such new values, and it is expected to create a mature social environment that emphasizes the sharing of values and experiences in a group and allows people to realize their own way of life and enjoy the joy of living.

As indicated by the SINIC Theory, Kazuma has laid the foundation for changing the world into a better society by solving social issues with a backcasting approach that takes near-future design as its starting point and considers what should be done now. Even in the age of VUCA, OMRON continues to use the SINIC Theory that we inherited from Kazuma as a management compass to predict the future and take on the challenge of creating a better society.

In the next episode, we will introduce the automation of manufacturing that Kazuma passionately worked on in order to support the spread of products that enrich people's lives.

* VUCA: An acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. And it is used as a key word to describe the modern business environment and conditions surrounding an individual's career.