An academic approach to interorganizational relationships driving corporate growth

Genjiro Kosaka
Department of Management
Faculty of Economics

Professor Genjiro Kosaka from the Faculty of Economics conducts research focusing on interorganizational relationships, including keiretsu transactions in the automobile industry, and crowdfunding. The study of management has a broad scope and expanding into the fields of economics, sociology and psychology. He talks about the aspects that render management studies captivating.

The study of management aims to elucidate efficient methods for managing companies and other organizations. I undertake research in management studies, particularly focusing on the dynamics of relationships between companies, such as between manufacturers and component suppliers. Recently, my attention has been directed towards two main areas: the automobile industry and crowdfunding.

The Japanese automobile industry is known for its cooperative relationships between companies, or “keiretsu,”, where automobile manufacturers, positioned at the top, engage in transactions with auto parts suppliers deeply interconnected with each manufacturer. Keiretsu achieved excellent quality and stable delivery times through long-term and continuous orders from automakers for components within the keiretsu and joint conduct of new development projects.

Meanwhile, the concept of resilience—defined as the ability of companies to respond and recover when there are significant exogenous shocks such as earthquakes and other disasters, war, or disease—is being highlighted in recent years. I therefore used the Great East Japan Earthquake as a case study to conduct a study targeting approximately 200 automobile component manufacturers that transact with Toyota Motor Corporation, comparing resilience by splitting them between keiretsu and non-keiretsu suppliers.

Focus on corporate capabilities for responding to exogenous shocks

In this study, I examined the changes in market share, before and after the earthquake, analyzing the production volumes of component manufacturers. The results showed that keiretsu manufacturers were able to maintain or increase their transaction volumes and market share with Toyota, demonstrating high resilience.

Furthermore, among keiretsu manufacturers, those engaged in transactions with several companies other than Toyota have higher resilience. This suggests that, for keiretsu suppliers, it isessential not to rely on a specific transaction partner but strike a balance in order to prevent complacency and foster a sense of tension in relationships.

Regarding crowdfunding research, I conducted interviews with approximately 30 employees of platform operators and project founders. Findings thus far suggest that crowdfunding projects emphasizing their prosocial orientation tend to attract more supporters. However, platform operators, being stock companies, must prioritize profitability.

Therefore, my research aims to explore how to achieve a balance between the prosocial orientation sought by project founders and their supporters, and profitability as platform operators. So far, it has been observed that such balance is achieved through ingenuity in the organizational design of platform operators and the presentation of project details.

Similar to the delicate balance between cooperation and competition, and profitability and prosocial orientation, I believe the essence of management lies in effectively navigating conflicting factors. I trust that research in management studies can offer valuable insights for addressing these management challenges.

Management is a ubiquitous aspect of life

Much of the corporate and organizational data handled in research is confidential and it is often difficult to obtain the necessary materials. The handling of interview contents requires utmost caution, and sometimes, research findings cannot be published. Despite these obstacles, I persist in my investigations, and derive immense satisfaction from substantiating conceived theories or acquiring knowledge that contributes to the updating of existing management theories.

In our contemporary society, products and services are ubiquitous outcomes of corporate endeavors, and many individuals are employed within these organizations. Consequently, management research, which scrutinizes these corporate entities, represents an academic discipline deeply intertwined with our everyday lives. Furthermore, management theories draw from diverse fields such as economics, psychology, and sociology, and a wide range of approaches are possible in analysis. I believe anyone can find a theme that engages them intellectually.

The book I recommend

by Henry Mintzberg, Japanese translation by Chiaki Ikemura, Nikkei Business Publications

The author is a distinguished scholar in management studies who develops innovative theories. In this book, the author meets with numerous managers and investigating their personal narratives and utilizing various resources to unveil their authentic personas. For me, this narrative is a reminder of the imperative for management studies to encompass the perspectives and challenges faced by managers, emphasizing its practical relevance in the real world.

Genjiro Kosaka

  • Professor
    Department of Management
    Faculty of Economics

Graduated from the Faculty of Social Sciences, Hitotsubashi University and received his Ph.D. in Commerce after completing the doctoral program at the university’s Graduate School of Commerce and Management. Took on several positions—such as lecturer at the Faculty of Humanities, Ibaraki University as well as assistant professor and associate professor at the Faculty of Economics, Sophia University—before assuming his current position in 2021. Also undertook research as a visiting researcher at Freie Universität Berlin between 2021 and 2023.

Department of Management

Interviewed: August 2023

Sophia University

For Others, With Others