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Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The Japanese has such great teamwork. The other day as I queried about my credit card refund with the hotel receptionist, her colleague at the far end came over instantly with the documents without her prompting. It is as if they are telepathic.
Teamwork is natural to the Japanese as they spend countless hours in 'group-work'. Hardly any work gets done without first having a group discussion and consensus. This however, takes a lot of time. Something which typically takes 30 minutes to complete may extend to 6 hours in a group. But to them, it is not a drag. This is the way things have been done and it is the way it is. To an outsider like myself, I find that difficult to understand.
There is no absolute answer as to whether individually completed work or group work is better. I feel that sometimes, we should honour individual work, and at other times, group work -depending on the context and urgency. Group work takes up more time and not always better quality work. Also, work-life balance is also important. It is senseless to have strong teamwork in the company and broken relationships in the family.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Respect and Honour Your Guests

The Japanese is probably the most polite people in the world and a culture that offers the best customer service.

A Japanese host upon seeing anyone coming near their shop would instantly bow, greet the person, and say "please come in".

A Chinese host would normally wait for the customer to enter the shop before talking to the customer. Those that do come out, usually do so to ask what the customer wants. Some of the more zealous ones will go further to suggest what the customer should have.

I would feel more comfortable entering a Japanese shop, as I feel honored and pampered to examine what they have to offer at my liberty, without obligations.

In a Chinese shop, I would feel pressured to buy, as an expectation is already set.

For all else being equal, many of us would rather enter the Japanese shop than the Chinese shop, as the former offers us the comfort and liberty to do so.

The crux of it happens in the first three seconds when anyone is seen near the shop. For the Japanese, it is a reflex to honour and respect the other person. Applied to business, it not only win over the customers' hearts, but even win against the hungrier,leaner and arguably more efficient Chinese.

Taking longer than three seconds to react to the presence of the customer will not have the same effect, as it will turn out choreographed or orchestrated. Just like the many smiles and "Good morning sir" greetings from American fast food chains, they don't produce the same results.

This crucial three seconds, however took a lifetime to develop. A lifetime to make it one's second nature. The irony is that the Japanese culture of honorific greetings and bowing was originally imported entirely from China!

This comparison between the Japanese and Chinese is a case of culture winning over brute force. It also demonstrates that 'copies' can be refined to a quality higher than the original.

In history, the superior culture eventually emerged the victor.

In 371 BC, the Spartans lost the war against the Athenians, although the former had a superior record in military might. The Athenians rose to become influential figures in economics and politics in the territories they lost to the Spartans and corroded the defensive brute force Spartan shell.

Similarly, after the Mongols had invaded China in 1271, Kublai Khan adopted legal systems of the Han Chinese and established political systems, radicated politics of centralized state power, resumed normal ruling orders, and also, created the system of administrative province.