Explanation of the KJ Method
Akiko Kawakita
  Japanese-English translation support:
Yoshihisa HIRAKAWA
★ The author

The KJ Method is a unique problem-solving technique that was developed by ethnologist and geographer Jiro Kawakita. The following publications provide detailed descriptions of the method: Hassoho (Abduction) (1967:Chukoshinsho), ZokuHassoho (1970:Chukoshinsho), KJ Method - Kontonwoshite Katarashimeru (1986:Chuokoronshinsha).

Since the publication of Hasshoho in 1967, the KJ Method has had a far-reaching impact; it has been used in numerous fields to help solve a wide range of problems.
★ Versatility of the KJ Method

The method was originally developed to conduct qualitative research using fieldwork data; however, the scope of application of the KJ Method has now reached far beyond general fieldwork and academic research. The KJ Method is now widely recognized as a useful tool to:

- Gather information on peoples’ true needs; grasp community or customer needs;
- Develop products and technologies;
- Resolve internal issues through problem solving in organizations;
- Deal with uncertainty and complexity in the human-services fields such as education, psychology, medical or nursing care;
- Create a product concept or heighten sensibility toward the arts;
- To prepare academic research papers or further one’s understanding of literary works;
- To effectively sort through a variety of daily life information.

We believe that the universal application of this method in all sorts of fields stems from a change in the conception of science brought about by Jiro Kawakita.

★ Proposal for “field science”

Jiro Kawakita named this new science concept Field Science.
The word “field” is meant to include all possible fields. The underlying concept is that we are not collecting “quantitative” data to verify a specific hypothesis, but we are gathering “qualitative” chaotic data to formulate a hypothesis from a particular setting. The universality of the KJ Method is supported by the dynamic and open concept “field science”.

The strength of the KJ Method is that it can establish an orderly system from chaotic information such as data on regions, people, organizations, literature, art work, inner thoughts, and many others. 
★ Scientific and artistic characteristics

The KJ Method deals with “qualitative” data; by gathering information from “scenarios” as they unfold, we can be inspired to draw a hypothesis from chaotic data.

The KJ Method differs from other scientific methodologies in that it does not aim to verify a hypothesis using quantitative data, but rather uses qualitative data to inspire a hypothesis. Jiro Kawakita proved that this model is compatible with science.

The KJ Method has shaped a new way to perceive the concepts of “individuality” and “science”. The individuality of the author and that of his/her work are essential, because the work is inspired by real data. The individuality is realized by exchanges with chaotic data, not being derived by Western “self”. This method has Oriental characteristics. In the natural exchanges with the ambiguity of the chaos, original powerful individuality occurs.
The KJ Method enables us to get a clear understanding of how and why our own ideas occur. This insight allows for a more creative outlook on issues that might be ambiguous. As the process continues, we can gradually clarify the issues while still maintaining a strong level of sensitivity to formulate a clear final product.

The KJ Method is based on the author Jiro Kawakita’s careful observation of human nature; the KJ Method products derive from clear consciousness as well as ambiguous unconsciousness inspired by data. This method does not part with the scientific nature at the same time to be artistic.

In this way, the KJ Method often draws on opposing concepts such as clarity and ambiguity, or consciousness and unconsciousness, logic and feelings, individual and group, concentration and relaxation, convergent and divergent thinking, etc.

Based on a more liberal approach combining concepts from the scientific and the artistic fields, the KJ Method reaches a large audience.
★ The KJ Method in the narrow and broad senses

The “KJ Method in the narrow sense” involves a series of steps starting with jotting down data collected at the scene onto labels. The next step is “group formation” to combine the labels, followed by “illustration”. And the last step is “narration”(literal explanations or oral presentations). This is called performing “one round of the KJ Method in a narrow sense”.

Jiro Kawakita also devised multifaceted techniques to collect information prior to this step. Performing several rounds of the KJ Method will enhance the chances of finding effective solutions to the problems at hand. We call these techniques the “KJ Method in a broad sense”. Following the publication of “Hassoho”, KJ Method techniques and applications have been further expanded.
In the KJ Method, “group formation” is essential, which includes “collecting labels” and “making name plates” as one of the most important steps. When collecting labels, the focus is on using the data itself to lead to richer ideas. To understand the meaning behind the collected labels, we perform a concept formation called “making name plates”.

In the KJ Method, in order to reach a higher level of understanding of the underlying issue and derive precise hypotheses, the emphasis is on moving away from preconceived notions or perceptions. This is the most important part of the KJ Method.
★ The importance of training

In order to gain a proper understanding of the technique and use it effectively, it is essential to undergo a training program. To verify the reliability of KJ Method products, we need to make sure that the step that consists in organizing groups is done in a consistent fashion.

Training is important to grasp the essence of the KJ Method and to apply the various techniques properly. Also, even when using only a part of the various techniques of the KJ Method, training will help exploit it discerningly, and will provide for more accurate abduction and result.

The ultimate goal of the KJ Method is to assist users to gain a greater understanding and solving of the issues they face while at the same time deepen their insight into their own perceptions and widen their creativity.

The KJ Method is the useful methodology based on the original great thought.
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