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Home > Books & Journals > Book Review Last Updated: 14:22 03/09/2007
Book Review #41: November 26, 2002

"DoCoMo: Japan's Wireless Tsunami"

edited by John Beck and Mitchell Wade

Reviewed by Hiroko Kawai (GLOCOM)

Title: DoCoMo: Japan's Wireless Tsunami
Editor: John Beck and Mitchell Wade
Publisher: AMACOM books
Date/Time: 2003
Pages: English text - 224 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0814407536


This book tells the story of the triumph of DoCoMo–especially i-mode--spotlighting the role of human feelings in the success of DoCoMo. Separate chapters are devoted to fun, luck, impatience and strength.

The authors are John C. Beck, Director of International Research at the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change, and Mitchell Wade, a senior consultant with Accenture who spent many years looking at how people use information. Both men conducted wireless–commerce research at an Accenture think tank, focusing on ideas that could lead to immediate management action.

In the book the authors ask why DoCoMo's i-mode service had taken the entire national market by storm, in only a few years going from essentially zero to over $30 billion in revenues, selling Internet-enabled mobile telephones to about 30 million paying data customers, without major acquisitions and despite a recession and low consumer spending.

DoCoMo (a play on the Japanese phrase Doko Demo, or "everywhere") achieved outstanding success with i-mode, "a system that turns the pedestrian cellphone into a personal network connection" and allows users to send messages and also to download and pay for information.

After the authors examined extensive managerial dimensions (these are not described much in the book) such as strategies, tactics, technologies, details of execution and leadership--all the ingredients that case studies traditionally focus on--they revealed that the triumph of DoCoMo is not mainly due to engineering or the right legacy infrastructure or backing the winning technical standard, pricing the service wisely or guaranteeing distribution or staying close to customers, and not about dedication and efficiency. They instead claim that the success of DoCoMo depends heavily on the human factor--"passion". As the authors make clear, "only a complex set of passions could give DoCoMo the explosive energy to reach its current unchallenged position."

The table of contents is as follows:
Chapter One: Love
Chapter Two: Inequality
Chapter Three: Impatience
Chapter Four: Luck
Chapter Five: Fun
Chapter Six : Strength
Appendix A : Intimacy and M-Commerce
Appendix B : Interview with Kouji Ohboshi

Chapters offer analytic information illustrated with insights from top company executives, and explore the business implications of complex human qualities, including:

Love: How DoCoMo won early customers for its innovative wireless technology by reaching out beyond the apparent and mainstream markets—appealing to fashionable trendsetters as well as active, ambitious professionals—and striking personal passions.

Inequality: How DoCoMo excels at creating value out of differences—in assets and in preferences—guided by CEO Keiji Tachikawa, whose post–WWII childhood gave him a keen grasp of the economics of disparity.

Impatience: How the restless energy and all-encompassing focus of its Chairman, Kouji Ohboshi, saw DoCoMo through a series of early crises, each time emerging more determined and stronger, and drove the company to anticipate future market shifts, consumer demands, and global opportunities.

Luck: How DoCoMo successfully transformed itself into the kind of organization that creates its own luck. This chapter describes a kind of chain reaction by examining five of DoCoMo's luckiest breaks.

Fun: How i-mode was conceived and perfected, under formidable deadline pressures, by a highly creative, free-thinking team.

Strength: How a feeling of strength enables DoCoMo to embrace and execute strategies that many companies simply cannot.

The authors believe that DoCoMo's intellectual underpinnings can be shared with others.

Based on their findings they propose that a company that taps the power of human passions and feelings, that pays attention to daily management, that wisely chooses what company or group project to work on, and that skillfully selects technologies to back or companies to invest in will create value faster than its competitors.

Because the intended readers are non-Japanese, there is not much new detailed information about the company and i-mode technology for people who are familiar with DoCoMo's i-mode history. However, the authors have made a valuable contribution to Japanese management literature with their case study, which has provoked a great deal of controversy.

The book is recommended particularly for executives concerned with the importance of "intrapreneurship" in corporations actively competing in telecom marketplaces.

The following is from the American Management Association's web site:

The following is from the publisher's website:

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