I sincerely believe that the all of us (individuals, corporates, governments) can learn many things from the Japanese culture. I have made an attempt to list 4 such potential learnings-
(1) Resilience & Transformation –
The year 1945 witnessed a devastating event for humanity, the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, the way Japan grew from this horrific tragedy to emerge as one the world’s leading nation is highly commendable. In 2019, Japan’s GDP was #3 in the world and over the last several years has been ranked amongst the world’s most innovative countries.
- While organizations have been focused on transformation for sometime, the focus on resilience is relatively new, but extremely important and relevant today. Organizations should harmoniously integrate all functions to better deal with a crisis (such as COVID-19). Some of the key tenets would be (1) anticipating & being proactive (2) acknowledging (3) staying agile and nimble (4) keeping all stakeholders safe/involved/engaged (5) effective communication (6) drawing on both your own and others’ narratives of resilience (7) Reasserting the organization’s moral purpose (8) relook at policies (especially HR policies) and elping to engage and invigorate the employees. In short, organizations need to become more agile, open to listening/implementing ideas, and keep employees safe with high morale to maintain a thriving business and loyal customers.
- Individual resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions. People can further develop (a) positive thought process/mental health (b) awareness of situations and associated factors/implications (c) problem solving skills (d) better social connections who can be of help.
While adversities (like the current ongoing COVID-19) may keep happening in future, we can confidently and successfully tide over them and emerge even stronger, post such catastrophic events. An article listed seven Cs for building resilience – Control + Competence + Coping + Confidence + Connection + Character + Contribution
(2) Helping & Kindness – Going the extra mile
In 2017, I was on a family vacation in Japan, a stranger stepped out & subsequently missed his local train just to provide directional help to us. After seeing that we were surprised by his kind gesture, he calmly said that he can always take the next train after few minutes.
I sincerely believe if each one of us develops a similar attitude for others, this world will be a different place.Taking this COVID-19 as one example – there were several cases across the globe, if everyone had a deep appreciation for others (1) the spread of this contagious disease could have been controlled far better (2) some people and families would have got the desired help/relief in real time while coping with this pandemic. Pls don’t get me wrong. There have been several instances of people helping others, but it is only sporadic. Even in the corporate world, we lack empathy for our colleagues/partners/customers, which must improve.
(3) Punctuality & Kaizen ( Efficiency) –
You will rarely find any train running late in Japan. A rail company publicly apologized after one train departed 20 seconds early. Kaizen is the Sino-Japanese word for “improvement” . All employees (from CEO down to everyone) focus on continuous improvement across all functions. By imbibing efficiency & punctuality, corporates/governments/individuals may accomplish – (a) consistent and predictable results (2) eliminate waste (3) optimize on resources (4) achieve high accountability (5) better experience for consumers/customers
(4) Respect for people – Teinei
The phrase “Teinei” is comprised of “Tei” which means elaborate and “nei” which means peaceful. Japanese culture’s core DNA comprises of (1) Politeness (2) Elevating the other person by showing extreme respect (3) Showing extreme humility by humbling self.
In today’s pandemic era, people’s health, finances, mobility, social connections, ability to socialize, emotional quotient, trusting others have all been negatively impacted. The need for being considerate for others, is at it’s peak now. Corporates need to have an empathy based culture to ensure that the dignity of an individual is always protected. We see this getting compromised and trampled on several occasions. At an individual level, we need to act with lot of respect with people and go the extra mile to support as appropriate.
Just imbibing the above 4 qualities , will help build a better future for tomorrow….