Volume 14 (2015) Issue 1 Pages 53-66
Waste is generated as an unwanted byproduct of current business activities. Transforming waste products into a resource can enable firms to obtain raw material for free and reduce the cost of waste disposal. However, in general, firms are hesitant to accept the challenge of utilizing waste products because of organizational learning. Moreover, in the past, all challenges to transform waste products into a resource have failed. Thus, firms must unlearn the organizational learning that waste is “not a resource,” which inhibits their attempt to utilize waste products. Furthermore, in the beginning of development, there is no definite idea, and the process is far from the deliberate strategic process with clear objectives. The development process would be a deliberately emergent strategic process with only rough guidelines for attempting to transform waste into resources by any means. To achieve the objectives, firms have to patiently repeat trial and error, even if there are no short-term outcomes. This paper introduces the development process for N-acetylglucosamine (NAG) at the Yaizu Suisankagaku Industry (YSK) as an example of the successful commercialization of technology that utilizes waste. In the YSK example, (1) the spirit of mottainai that increases the value of the material to the maximum and becomes a significant driving force for unlearning, and (2) the leaning on the future principle in which one continues without losing hope even if there are no short-term results were the critical aspects that led to the successful transformation of waste into resources and is referred to as mottainai innovation.