Managing for Creativity in Japan Talking with Foreign Executives in Japan

Focus Groups in Japan

“If you did a focus group in America you’d have 9 or 12 people in the room and some people would ‘love this’ and ‘hate that’ and there’d be big fights and arguments and maybe a couple of people would sit there numb or play with their blackberries or whatever and when it came to scoring what they did or didn’t like there would be a lot of polarization.
In Japanese focus groups everybody is pretty polite and nobody really likes to point their finger and say ‘that’s crap’ or ‘that’s amazing’. They tend to be very moderate in what they say, and particularly in a group environment social mores demand that people not be too rude or overly expressive. There are always exceptions to the rule of course but in general that is what we have found.
So, if you had a score in your research it would always be ‘moderately acceptable’ or ‘moderately unacceptable’ which makes it hard (I think) to get insights. One-on-one interviews may be a little bit better because people tend to open up, but the best way to do things here is through real life observation.”

This post is part of a series of excerpts from interviews with foreign executives in Japan, focusing on creativity. Excerpts have been edited for confidentiality.
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