Managing for Creativity in Japan Talking with Foreign Executives in Japan

Becoming More Collaborative

“In terms of being a manager of Japanese staff, my experience has been that it is very different to get local staff to be creative in their problem solving. Not impossible, people do differ, but there is a general bias against taking risks. People want to discuss everything and make sure everybody agrees with a particular course of action before they take it. This has influenced me to a degree and over the years here I’ve become much more collaborative in the way that I make decisions. I used to just dictate but now I hardly ever dictate, I suggest. It’s better that way, it works better. If you have a culture where people are afraid to make a mistake that’s like death to creativity and in Japan when you’ve got fear of being shamed, fear of being shown up, fear of making a mistake, fear of making someone else look bad, fear of making yourself look bad it’s hard. I want to be very careful about making those blanket judgments but nevertheless if you are in a culture where people are afraid to make mistakes and they’re nervous, and they feel like someone will come down on them if they make a mistake…..and you also don’t want to make your clients look bad by knowing more than them…… That’s fatal to creativity.”