This the fourth and final part of a larger series on "The Toyota Way" where I compare the culture of Toyota with the culture of Japan to see what about Toyota's culture is unique.
In the beginning of chapter 18 Principle 12 of "The Toyota Way" Jeffrey Liker introduces the concept of the Ohno Circle. For those of you who are unfamiliar, famous TPS founder/practitioner Taiichi Ohno would train his employees/students by drawing a circle on the ground near the production line and have the student stand there for 8 hours to observe a process without feedback. Once it is suppertime the student is simply asked to go home.
Image 1: hehe... losers*
This sounds absolutely absurd outside of the context of Asian cultures because this behavior draws heavily from Buddhist pedagogy .
"A boy living near a Buddhist temple can learn an untaught sutra by heart."
The boy living near the buddhist temple is a Japanese proverb I like to whip out when talking about Buddhist pedagogy. It embodies how many Japanese (and Asians) perceive not necessarily learning but mastery. It is the idea that deeply internalized learning and mastery come from passive and repetitive actions over a long period of time. This is starkly contrasted by western concepts of "learn by doing" or western stereotypes of geniuses being able to pick up concepts with no practice.
Obviously, there are merits to both systems:
-If someone understands a concept if explicitly told, there is no point in dragging it out in a cloud of nebulous exercises.
-Mastery is almost entirely dependent on discipline as well as insight and there is no "teaching" this.
Just two examples of an almost an endless list of reasons for one over the other. However,
Taiichi Ohno chose this methodology because of his inner promptings of Buddhist pedagogy.
Perhaps in an exclusive instance Liker flirts with the concept that TPS practices are intrinsically linked with Japanese culture in the section "The Way of Genchi Genbutsu Is Ingrained in a Country's Culture" and points to a study done at the University of Michigan by Richard E. Nisbett. The study suggests that background information was retained more readily by Japanese students than by Americans. Liker doesn't go into very much depth on why this this is the case and pulls away after stating that perhaps it may be fundamentally more difficult for Westerners to emulate Genchi Genbutsu. I find this perhaps the most disappointing part of the book. Not in what he suggests but by what he was on the verge of discussing but doesn't.