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“Ba” in Physics

Continuing my “Ba” series, this concept also appears in physics.

“Field” in physics is translated as “Ba” in Japanese.

If so, what are the similarities between “field” in physics and “Ba” in sociologies and business? There is a pattern among Japanese on how we call a thing “Ba.”

“Ba” is used in natural science. It is the translation of “field” in physics in Japanese.

The “field” is “a region or space in which a given effect (such as magnetism) exists.”

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Field. In dictionary. Retrieved October 12, 2023, from

Examples of a field are magnetic, electronic, or gravity.

Can we apply such physics thinking to business?

In my previous post, I mentioned about Hiroyuki Itami. He mentioned in “Management of Ba (1990)” that the relationship between the individual and the Ba is similar to that of particles, waves, and fields. He sees the particles as individuals, waves as the interaction of information, and the field as the total performance. Itami points out that physics cannot explain many things by focusing on particles. It required quantum mechanics to explain many phenomena. Itami believes that such thinking can be applied to business as well. Focusing on an individual, such as a leader, has a limit. How a leader can interact with others is more important.

Focusing on the similarities of those thing that we Japanese call “Ba” allow us to understand the characteristics of it.

  1. There is this space in which something is happening

  2. We identify the elements or the factors

  3. There is interaction among those elements and factors

  4. Discovering and defining the rules or logic to accomplish better results

  5. It is hard to observe.

It doesn’t matter if it is a social activity or a physics phenomenon. If something is happening in space and we want to understand, the Japanese will call this space a “Ba.” Once it is defined as “Ba,” we will define the elements and try to observe their interaction. And it is very hard to see, so we need careful observation to understand. Some might say that the physics “field” is easy to understand (or pretend to understand). But that is because many conceptual drawings and experimentation methods are straightforward. Without those efforts, it is impossible to see by human eyes.

This thinking is essential since I have highlighted that mechanical engineers have developed TPS in the past. Physics has an impact on how TPS designs things.

One such conceptual thinking is standardized work.

Standardized work is designed for each individual, just like particles. Each moves in a counterclockwise cyclic movement. The quantity of work should be balanced among the team so that each individual should start and end simultaneously. Any reason why such consistent movements are not allowed should be eliminated.

“Interaction” is the key. Traditional thinking saw the interaction and tried to isolate each process to maximize the performance of each process. Yet, they couldn’t wholly isolate themselves. People and processes continued to influence each other. So, TPS focused on creating “large islands.” They define the flow of materials and information. They define the team structures. They define the management processes.

This whole process of standardization explains an aspect of “Ba.” It starts with some mysterious phenomena at a place. Those phenomena could be social. Or it could be natural science related. It doesn’t matter. People or some things gather at that place and the outcome changes. But that phenomenon can’t be left as a mystery. It requires the people's effort to discover the logic behind them. The people need to define the components of that “Ba.” Then, understand the mutual interaction among those components. There is this collective wisdom at “Ba.”

There is always something to think about at “Ba.”

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