Managing for Creativity in Japan Talking with Foreign Executives in Japan

Holistic Decision Making

“It is very rare that a client in Japan would make a decision based on a survey – they tend to be more holistic in their thinking. The ideal is to get as much information as possible from different sources and then sort of see where things are at and how it feels. Then, someone who is very experienced will make a decision.

This is my stereotypical model so it may not be entirely useful but it does seem to me work that way. I remember some years ago I was presenting to Takedo Corp* who were doing a joint venture project for a beverage with a large global partner who has a global standard of advertising research that they use in order to help predict how well they will do in various markets. I presented this to the marketing director and the feedback that I received was that they would rather not know the results because that would restrict their ability to decide….Now, of course, to me that’s completely irrational because I would have thought that having clear metrics on the likely performance of your campaign would actually help you to make a decision but that’s not the way that it is viewed. If you put something up as being ‘the predictor’ or ‘the decision maker’ then I think that Japanese managers and domestic companies would sort of run away from it. In foreign companies where people are given a certain way of doing things then that’s a different story – they tend to kind of work in very well with those kinds of metrics because they understand that that is what they have to do.

In my view then, it would be pretty rare for a Japanese manager to make a decision based on a single piece of information. I would argue that a survey is not a single piece of information and that it actually is a synthesis of a lot of information, but nevertheless it may be viewed as one source. There are a lot of other sources around too…..the source of his experience, his feelings, whatever else comes in to play…there’s a lot of stuff around….”

*Fictional Company Name

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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