Managing Innovation through Ma
College of Commerce, Nihon University, Tokyo, Japan
How do leading companies, organizations and individuals unceasingly produce high-
quality innovations? The actions and thinking of leading practitioners (innovators)
originate in Ma thinking, the core theoretical concept presented in this paper. This paper
discusses how Ma thinking triggers the combination of creativity and efﬁciency in people
and organizations needed for the achievement of innovation.
In particular, this paper discusses new perspectives on organizational actions executed
based on Ma thinking to strategically bring about new innovation, which involve
dynamic thinking and practices at the micro level of practitioners not only in formal
organizations but also in informal organizations.
The paper presents detailed case studies and theoretical concepts of innovation activities
at the micro level in business workplaces from the perspective of strategic activities and
organizational actions. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Keywords innovation; creativity; paradox; boundaries; organizational culture
THE SIGNIFICANCE AND AIMS OF THIS
How is it that leading companies, organizations
and talented individuals are able to unceasingly
bring about high-quality innovations? The core
theoretical concept presented in this paper is the
idea of ‘Ma thinking’—an idea that serves as a
springboard for the thoughts and actions of dis-
tinguished practitioners (innovators).
Japan is a country that has a culture of Ma, and
the Japanese have a unique type of Ma culture
that can be found in the exquisite sensitivities, im-
agery, colours and meanings expressed through
traditional Japanese culture and arts. In no small
measure has this unique and reﬁned Ma also
inﬂuenced the sensibilities of the Japanese people
and enabled them to bring forth the distinct
aspects of their culture and art.
To date, some Japanese cultural anthropologist
and researchers have published research and
discussions about Ma. In addition, French
geographer Augustin Berque’s Vivre L’espace
au Japon (Berque, 1982) presents Japanese culture
by discussing the uniqueness of both Japanese
customs and language while contrasting them
with Christian culture. Berque’s work offers a
uniform view in which he veriﬁes many special
* Correspondence to: Nihon University, College of Commerce, 5-2-1,
Kinuta, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 157-8570, Japan.
Received 18 November 2016
Accepted 23 February 2017Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Systems Research and Behavioral Science
Syst. Res 35, 155–177 (2018)
Published online 10 April 2017 in Wiley Online Library
(wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/sres.2453