The Strength of Weak Ties
Hitoshi Hayashiya (East Japan Railway Company) President, Industry Applications Society, IEEJ
I was appointed as President of the Industry Applications Society on July, 1, 2022. I intend to contribute to the further progress of the Society with your support and guidance.
Looking back, I first made a conference presentation on my graduation research at a Discharge/High Voltage Workshop of the IEEJ in December 1993 at the University of the Ryukyus. In August the following year, I attended a technical meeting on discharge at the Muroran Institute of Technology, when I was in the first year of my master degree course; that was my second presentation on my graduation thesis. In the same month, I attended for the first time a national convention of the Industry Applications Society at Ehime University, together with members of the workshop who went on to their master degree courses. Thus, in only a few months I had research-related opportunities to visit Okinawa, Hokkaido and Ehime. That was when I began to fully enjoy the IEEJ life myself. In the 30 years since then, I have given oral presentations over 150 times, and have had the privilege of visiting 45 prefectures all over the nation thanks to the IEEJ. The real thrill of participating in the IEEJ was, in addition to upskilling as an engineer, being able to experience events all over the country. In addition, the friends and acquaintances made through IEEJ activities have been my greatest assets. Connections with them were formed through questions and answers, and I became friends with them by coincidentally sitting at the same table at convivial gatherings, and I could easily get to know leading engineers by participating in investigation expert committees other than presentations since I became an accomplished researcher and engineer. The IEEJ is filled with such “casual encounters” and the networks one cultivates in this manner become the “weak ties”, which are separate from the strong ties of working relationships, leading to new ideas and unexpected business solutions.
In the Industry Applications Society, efforts have been made to raise the value of membership by permitting all members including members of young engineers’ meetings, women engineers’ meetings, Industrial Applications forums and even various martial arts gyms to make use of the IEEJ in the way that best suits individual needs. In the past few years during the COVID-19 pandemic, the IEEJ made major progress in charting its course. Online participation in the IEEJ lowered the barrier of distance, while spot participation in the IEEJ and committees, and ad hoc attendance at various sessions have become easy. By enhancing the functions of the IEEJ as a place for “casual encounters” and “weak ties” while adding new value to the IEEJ, the value of IEEJ membership will rise.
On the other hand, the trends in industry and technology that surround the IEEJ have largely changed in the 30 years since I became committed to the IEEJ. It is only one example but the catalyst that drove me to study in the electrical field was a TV program “An autobiography of founding an electronic nation, Japan,” which was broadcast as a six-part series of “NHK Special” when I was a freshman in college. The semiconductor industry of Japan accounted for over half of global production in those days and took the world by storm. The TV program series ended with a commitment to develop Japan further as “an industrial nation that produces goods” in the future. In the 20 years since then, however, offshoring of production bases and commoditization of products has accelerated, and industry today is shifting from “goods” to “knowledge” and “services” thanks to the knowledge-intensive society and intangible assets. We should consider what new elements the IEEJ requires, while preserving and encouraging the flow of electrical engineering that emerged. How should the IEEJ build the backbone of engineering, and encourage the power of ideas and innovation?
The Industry Applications Society has started to discuss realigning the fields handled by technical committees in accordance with these circumstances. The IEEJ should also be flexible in order to cultivate engineers having deep expertise and broad vision capable of flexibly dealing with matters in today’s diverse world of “VUCA” when predicting the future is hard. Furthermore, the IEEJ is expected to play new roles such as fostering human resources by ongoing education and reskilling, and to provide places for accelerating open innovation and social implementation. To meet such diverse, modern needs, we must engage in trial runs of the online community, the provision of on-demand education and the promotion of internationalization, besides hybrid presentations.
We would greatly appreciate your support in helping to build a more attractive and beneficial Industry Applications Society.