are merging). Rather than implying that the United States and Japan will converge to a similar, normal way of business, the idea is that the problems addressed by corporate innovation throughout the world have more in common than they once did. In such an environment, "the great national differences that used to matter are no longer national." 4

As the problems faced by companies become more similar, aspects of the innovation systems of the two countries may converge toward each other as they approach a new innovation model relevant to all players. While the specific structures for innovation naturally differ among industrial nations, such trends may lead to a stronger level of functional equivalence among the structures. In this way, increased similarity of the problems addressed by corporate innovation in the two countries tend to increase the similarity of the two countries' innovation approaches, but does not necessarily imply that the approaches will become the same. For the United States and Japan, the implication is that although the two innovation systems are still very different, they are now less different than they were.

Among the Joint Task Force membership, there is a range of views regarding the specifics of U.S.-Japan problem convergence in corporate innovation and its implications. There is consensus among all task force members that some degree of U.S.-Japan problem convergence in the area of corporate innovation is occurring. Most of the Japanese members along with several U.S. members would go further to argue that the approaches utilized by companies in the two countries are also converging. They emphasize the evidence for U.S.-Japan convergence, and believe that companies based in both countries are converging toward a new model, driven by globalization.5

In contrast, several of the U.S. members point to evidence that U.S. and Japanese companies continue to develop distinct approaches, even where they face similar problems, and these approaches are shaped by their previous organizational and technological development. Although a project of this type could not hope to confirm one or the other view, the task force does agree that the issue itself is and will continue to be critical.

Distinguishing between the various convergence concepts is important to this project. For the innovation-based approach of the task force, convergence does not carry the baggage of implying shared core beliefs and attitudes, which has proved to be a stumbling block for institutional convergence. And while its positive rather than normative approach has similarities to productivity convergence, problem convergence's focus on the implications for innovation strategy makes it more suitable for the forward looking task at hand.

  • 1  

    Moses Abramovitz, "Catching Up, Forging Ahead, and Falling Behind," Journal of Economic History, vol. 46, no. 2. 1986, pp. 386-406; Richard. R. Nelson and Gavin Wright, "The Rise and Fall of American Technological Leadership: The Postwar Era in Historical Perspective," Journal of Economic Literature, December 1992, pp. 1931-1964; "Economic Growth," The Economist, vol. 339, no. 7967, May 25, 1996.

  • 2  

    Eileen M. Doherty. "Introduction," in Eileen M. Doherty, ed., Japanese Investment in Asia. International Production Strategies in a Rapidly Changing World, (Berkeley, Calif.: Asia Foundation and the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy, 1995), p. 22.

  • 3  

    Chalmers Johnson, Japan: Who Governs? The rise of the Developmental State (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995), p. 70.

  • 4  

    Richard R. Nelson, "U.S. Technological Leadership: Where Did It Come From and Where Did it go?" Research Policy, vol. 19, 1990, p. 130.

  • 5  

    For an example where the institutional convergence perspective led policymakers astray while problem convergence occurred in innovation strategies, see Gerald Hane. "The Real Lessons of Japanese Research Consortia," Issue in Science and Technology, Winter 1993-94, pp. 56-62.

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