On April 14th, I had the pleasure to conduct an onstage conversation with AXA Group Japan CEO Seiji Yasubuchi for the French Chamber of Commerce. Below is a summary of my takeaways from the conversation.
If you have ever heard someone use the adjectives traditional Japanese todescribe an uninspiring manager, the moniker is only half-true. Only by replacing the word traditional with mediocre can you accurately reflect reality. There is nothing traditional about mediocrity in Japan, just as anywhere else in the world.
The best military strategists always choose the terrain on which they will do battle, rather than allowing the enemy to choose for them. So, in business, why would you possibly allow others to define the topography of your business environment instead of choosing the topography yourself?
Yet, that is often precisely what business people do.
“Not invented here” syndrome is not unique to Japan and is one of the most common forms of passive resistance to any reasonable organizational improvement or change in organizations everywhere in the world. Make no mistake, those who warn of the dangers of “not invented here” pretend to be doing so in the best interest of the business. Yet, it is only their individual self-interest about which they care.
You cannot divine attitude of anyone from behavior alone, whether you are familiar with his or her culture of not. Yet whenever a non-Japanese CEO tells me he is concerned about the attitude or mindset of Japanese people it is usually because he or she trying to do just that.
The success of any business rarely depends on any key manager or executive. It is only the mistaken belief in the indispensability of an executive that masks and suppresses the talent of others. Your leadership bench is often hiding in plain sight.