Managing for Creativity in Japan Talking with Foreign Executives in Japan

Kaisha vs. Company

“The concept of a company in Japan is I think different. The term ‘kaisha’ (Japanese for company) is in my mind a group. The word itself has more of a nuance of a group of people doing something together than does the term ‘limited liability company’ (which is a non-person). The Western idea of a company is that of a non-person – a non-human legal entity with no objective other than to make a profit. Of course they have to exist in society and have good human relations (which are good for business) though.

You may have seen the movie ‘The Company’ which likens a company to a psychopath – obsessed with its own survival, lacking empathy and whatever….That’s not really how it is in Japan. Everybody has a vested interest in the stability of the system rather than, perhaps, genuine progress. It’s not that genuine progress doesn’t occur but it occurs within that controlled and less chaotic environment. People will experiment with concepts and products but they won’t touch the core of the organization so readily.”