Hit the Ground Running

The only viable path forward for your business during this crisis is innovation. There is no percentage in tentativeness. It is the bold and the innovators who will hit the ground running and succeed when things settle.

At a recent CEO roundtable I held in Tokyo, one CEO talked about how he is implementing enclosed spaces in retail facilities across Japan that are meant to accommodate one customer and one sales person at a time. The space is disinfected after each use. Other CEOs who heard this idea realized they could do the same thing in their own businesses, even though the business of each is vastly different from the others.

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Contingency Trumps Certainty

Even though Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe now has the power to enact a state of emergency, he has hesitated doing so citing lack of evidence so far for meeting the conditions. Yet lack of evidence and evidence of lack are not the same thing, and you need not make the same mistake in leading your business.

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Don’t be a Japanologist

Japan-fatigue is real and can be fatal to your success and career. Don’t try to explain how Japan is different to executives in your head office. While such conversations are great for dinner parties, talks with students, and war stories with friends, unless executives in your head office are interested in Japanology as a hobby, it’s best to leave Japanology to academics. Executives will find discussions only frustrating and tedious.

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Fear Misplaced

Risk and risk perception are rarely equivalent, but if you lead an organization, yours must be one and the same.

I write this as worldwide cases of coronavirus surpass 10,000, most of which are in China, and are certain to rise. While a frightening pathogen to be sure, the fears that coronavirus has provoked in people in other countries are beyond rational, as are the changes in their behavior.

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Your Own Worst Enemy

Businesses can be their own worst enemies when business process supplants business thinking.

The CEO of a large industrial American company in Japan told me of difficulties he faces in buying from a division of a large Japanese industrial company, not because of a lack of will to sell on their part, but rather unnecessary and burdensome bureaucratic processes that were designed to meet Japanese government procurement requirements, the division’s primary customer. Quality control processes at the Japanese seller company were impractical and far beyond what the American company required, while lead-times and costs were excessive. Adherence to process, no matter how inappropriate, dominated thinking.

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Authority Isn’t Empowerment

Empowerment is like breathing. We all recognize its need but we’re rarely aware of it until something is wrong. Passivity in business is the most common symptom of lack of empowerment. Continue reading

Ownership Trumps Buy-In

New methods can appear threatening to some managers who have never had to change in order to be successful.

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