About Tomoshige

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English, Japanese

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Comments & conversations

176016
Tomoshige Ohno
Posted about 1 year ago
Why are we afraid to make mistakes?
For some reason Donald Rumsfeld's famous statement came to my mind: “There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.” Nate Silver's penetrating book “The Signal and the Noise” also refers to this quote. While many people like scientists and forecasters are placing much emphasis on revealing or predicting known unknowns, it is unknown unknowns such as the 9/11 terror attack — most people had never thought about if an airplane would crash into a huge tower — that may potentially influence our life and therefore we should really care about (which is impossible because we don't know they exist). Failing to do something is acceptable as long as it doesn't trigger unprecedented effects — that is, unknown unknowns — but otherwise we would hesitate to try. Fear of mistakes could be part of our instinct to survive in this world where unknown unknowns are omnipresent.
176016
Tomoshige Ohno
Posted about 1 year ago
Would you prefer to read from book rather than from online website?
In terms of readability, books are definitely better than websites because we can easily go back and forward. Some people may prefer the jump-to-the-section feature of eBooks and websites, but tactility of a paper book is a useful toolkit that provides an intuitive understanding of where we are now and where we are bound for in the book. However, when it comes to deciding which books or websites to read, the internet has a big advantage (Thanks Google!!). Indexing is an excellent and indispensable technology in this digital era. So my favorite way is to read a book and sometimes look up unfamiliar words and concepts on the web.
176016
Tomoshige Ohno
Posted about 1 year ago
Why are we afraid to make mistakes?
I'm not sure how many people are able to prophesy the future (not just some particular cases) to what extent, but one clear thing is that we have to embrace the uncertainty that is tied to any of our activity though some people shun this fact. Sorry if you got me wrong, but my point is same as yours; in order to stay away from the unexpectable, myriad politicians and big companies' board members are following the precedents despite the circumstances changing perpetually. They just want an excuse to protect their position. This is what I called immobilism. But due to volatility some similar attempts can end up with a different consequence. Sharp is a good example that indicates trying to avoid mistakes by following the precedents could be a mistake itself. Until several years ago Sharp used to flourish with the outstanding LCD sales, but ironically Sharp's portfolio is deteriorating now due to the over-invested LCD production facilities and cumulative debts. And conversely an apparent mistake could be a source of success. Think of Viagra. At first Phizer tried to develop it as an anti-angina but suspended the development due to its low effect. It turned out, however, to have an adverse effect that stimulates erection, and now Viagra represents a high sales as an anti-erectile dysfunction. Thus viewing the world through a different lens can open up a new possibility.
176016
Tomoshige Ohno
Posted about 1 year ago
Why are we afraid to make mistakes?
I guess you're talking of Toyota as a whole organization because a single author would never be able to investigate all the 300,000 Toyota employees, but looking at individual employees provides a different impression. Most of the Toyota workers are just dealing with their routine tasks rather than desperately seeking ways of improvement. If the Pareto principle applies to this case (which appears plausible), 80% of Toyota's corporate activity including the improvement processes is made by 20% of all the employees. The rest are just trying to stick with the company because as you said, unemployment is critical. I think this was also the case with GM, driving the automotive giant to a wrong direction. But retrospective inspection of this kind is easy whereas prospective prediction is extremely difficult. Everyone admires Toyota and criticizes GM because Toyota is successful now while GM is not. A couple of decades back, however, how many people expected GM's (and perhaps Kodak's as well?) bankruptcy? I have once read a book entitled “Everything Is Obvious *Once You Know the Answer,” in which the author Duncan Watts explores how we can fall into circular reasoning and how commonsense explanations can fail. Now we know that Toyota sits at the top of the automotive industry pyramid and that the GM union was to blame, but few people knew these facts prior to the events. Likewise bailouts were made shortly after the 1991 bubble burst in Japan and the 2008 financial crisis in the US, because the Japanese and the US governments at that moment thought it would be the only way to avoid worse scenarios. Outcomes are unclear until they become clear. Sometimes an apparently best-looking effort can later turn out to be a sheer blunder. Such uncertainty complicates the definition of a mistake, particularly in complex worlds like business and economy where replication of an event is almost impossible.
176016
Tomoshige Ohno
Posted about 1 year ago
Why are we afraid to make mistakes?
Interesting and convincing point. In a competition it is often easier to drag rivals down than stack one's own success. Without appropriate incentives people would end up making each other fall down to the ground.
176016
Tomoshige Ohno
Posted about 1 year ago
Why are we afraid to make mistakes?
Surely that's a crucial philosophy of Japan's manufacturing industry that impeled the remarkable postwar economic growth, and as a Japanese I'm proud of it. But that belief is merely our tatemae now. Our honne is that we don't want to be eliminated from the community where we belong. All employees are eager to just maintain their own value that is normally assessed by the human resources department and the boss, thereby following their bosses' instruction which is product improvement for instance. If they fail to improve, it is considered to be a mistake and they will be penalized. Once fired, no company is willing to employ that person, in order for the job applicant not to make a mistake again and damage the company's revenue. This kind of fail-safe concept is prevalent in Japan. In a factory a production lane would be suspended upon detecting a disorder because if a company shipped defective products to the market, the government and consumers would blame the manufacturer. Japan is dominated by immobilism, in which a small and single mistake can be fatal. It could be surrounding people and circumstances that make one afraid of making a mistake.
176016
Tomoshige Ohno
Posted about 1 year ago
Why are we afraid to make mistakes?
I think mindset does matter, as both of you suggested. Greedy people tend to pursue an apparently appropriate choice to maximize their nearsighted benefits. This converges in a rather conservative strategy even though it might look offensive to others, and such people will never admit their mistakes because doing so will shatter their honor and pride. In contrast inquisitive persons are inclined to try something new, and when faced with a difficulty, they humbly accept the fact.
176016
Tomoshige Ohno
Posted about 1 year ago
Why are we afraid to make mistakes?
There is uncertainty about what happens when we fail. And as we grow older, we eventually have an empirical observation that mistakes can deprive us of what we currently have (job, money, time, freedom, trust, or even life). Taken together, these lead to fear of failure. Another reason that people are unwilling to dare to take a risk is the lack of motivation and incentive. When people are feeling comfortable with their present situations and little can be obtained by accomplishing something, they won't tackle a new challenge so that they never make a mistake.
176016
Tomoshige Ohno
Posted over 1 year ago
For non-US TEDizens: Can you tell us about your country's education system?
Thank you Mary for suggesting another wonderful conversation. What impressed me in the conversation you are hosting is that someone listed her parents as great teachers. That is what I wanted to mean. I would say school is not all of education. You questioned how family are involved in education, but for infants parents are, in a wider sense, the closest and most influential educator and are kind of an information hub. Take language acquisition processes for exmaple. Babies become (probably unconsciously) interested in what parents speak and eventually start learning words. If adults surrouding a baby spoke nothing at all, he or she wouldn't be able to acquire a language. Parents are much involved in education, whether consciously or unconsciously, in ways that give their children some curiosity in their daily lives and preliminary knowledge for that. But parents aren't really taught how to educate or discipline children at home. That's a big problem, given the fact that even schoolchildren spend more than half of a day at home. This is why I think we need to educate parents. As for homework, elementary school students surely have some (but not too much) of it. But I don't want to say parents should help children out with just finishing it. As you said earlier, what's important in education is not give children the answer but help them grasp the real comprehension of what underlies what textbooks say.