Managing for Creativity in Japan Talking with Foreign Executives in Japan

Country Specific Skills

“(CB: Do you think that specific cultural training, experience or language skills are necessary or helpful? You mentioned earlier that the people who are really well versed in the language and culture are not the ones that are really successful…..)

Well, if you are coming in at Senior Manager level or something you will have come up through the ranks in your home country. People who are more acculturated to the Japanese environment will tend to be at the junior levels. There are cases where people do succeed because there are more job opportunities and different roles for people with a deeper knowledge of Japan and Japanese – you might look at a CV and be surprised that five years ago that person was teaching English. That’s a good thing but I think that there is a reason why you are being brought in as a foreigner. You’re not brought in because you’re able to fit in. Just because you’re able to understand the language it doesn’t mean that you are of the culture it just means that you have been sensitive to your environment. (C: So those skills are not a prerequisite for success in Japan?) No I don’t think so. I think that you need the curiosity to understand that people are different and that they may not always tell you what you want to hear……that they may not be that good at expressing their positions. When I say you need to listen, I mean that you’ve got to be sensitive to the vibe. Take a more holistic approach. I think that people will give you their best if they don’t feel threatened.”