For ages Japan has been involved with global trade. It started off with export business in the 1960’s with textiles, moved on to steal, entertainment electronics (TV, Walkman…) in the 70’s and then next were automobiles and semiconductors in the 80’s. International capital flowed into Japan from around 2000, while locally development of transportation and communication/IT technologies occurred. More and more capital, companies and information moved across borders. While Japan was doing its steps on the global market, some companies did better than others. From my perspective why many companies did not do well abroad is based on a common challenge: Japanese firms tend to be weak in communication and negotiation on a global platform.
This communication weakness is threefold: An actual language communication gap, difficulties to express concepts due to culturally based different approach and a gap due to different styles to convey contexts. To make the whole situation even more complex, due to cultural roots Japanese tend to avoid conflicts. In communication vagueness is considered as a virtue as it gives room for both sides to maneuver and get to a unanimous win-win agreement. But in order to get there, both sides are expected to go through a time-consuming process of informal information exchanges. Looking then at the more common global approach of time is money, direct argumentation, high level of English, perception that a fight can clean the air between parties… it is not surprising for me that Japan can be perceived as handicapped.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)