5. Reference model as a loose standard (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

  Let’s explain about the loose standards with specific examples. Small chef is a master of fried egg. His restaurant’s fried egg set is exquisite and there is always a waiting line. The competing set meal restaurant managed to find out the secret of the delicious fried egg he made and asked for it, but he never told about it. Not only that, but the small chef’s kitchen is inaccessible to anyone.

  One day, the gas stove broke. The small chef disassembled the stove and repaired everything. One day, he realized that the egg shape was different. The small chef went to the poultry farm and checked the chicken’s fertilizer and the breeding situation. The small chef believed that this was natural, and was delighted to do so. In fact, the store was thriving and there was always a waiting line. From a certain time, the small chef became unwell, the store tended to close, and the disease worsened and finally he closed the restaurant.

  Now there are no people in the world who know the recipes for fried eggs by small chefs. The small chef should have told the people around him at the time of his peak. “My fried egg is made with a gas stove using eggs as ingredients.” Or he could go further and say, “The frying pan is special, but it is important to use oil, adjust the firepower, and use the lid.” Because, in a sense, this is common knowledge in making fried eggs.

  In this example, fried egg is made with a gas stove using egg as a material, and in fried egg, how to grind oil, how to adjust the thermal power, how to use the lid determines the quality is not a strict standard but a loose standard. Only chefs who agree with this idea need to follow it, and there is no guarantee that the fried egg will be delicious with the standard. In order to be able to form a line at a fried egg shop, it will be necessary to study the technology to the point where it is further distant from the level disclosed here.

  Strict standards guarantee a certain quality. On the other hand, loose standards do not guarantee quality. If you dare to say, for those who are studying how to make fried eggs from scratch, there is an effect that reduces the labor a little. So what does a loose standard mean? Loose standards do not guarantee quality, but instead have tremendous power. It is the power that forms the ecosystem described below.

  Let’s explain with an example of a small chef. By defining materials and utensils as a loose standard for fried eggs, and further defining one level deep step on how to bake, and an evaluation index there, we have created a model of how to make fried eggs. This is called the fried egg reference model. This has led to the entry into a new fried egg business, and companies that provide equipment such as gas stoves have also improved their technologies, and egg producers have become more careful about quality, resulting in an increase in the fried egg population.

  For small chef, even if there are many competing fried egg shops, customers will not decrease. Since the core technology is not open, its position is not threatened. Conversely, it can be said that the number of visitors will increase as the fried egg population increases. Loose standards play a very important role in building a cooperative relationship in a competitive environment. And as a standard, we can establish a common framework with our competitors, and then add individual technologies to differentiate them.

  Based on the concept of loose standards, it is necessary to define a reference model in order for the ecosystem to function as a concrete mechanism. The reference model is the core of a loose standard that defines the components and structure of the problem in question. The content to be expressed cannot be too detailed, or too rough. The reference model separates the common part that can be said in the subject problem from the part that is individual for each party. The reference model has the power to design the boundary between the competitive area and the cooperative area according to its content, granularity and accuracy, and to guide the whole in a more effective direction.