Japan Needs More People with Foreign Experience

Posted by whsaito

  1. There’s nothing at all wrong with the premise of this post – overseas experience, foreign language facility and a world view are vital to the success of individuals and organizations hoping to compete on the global stage.

    The segue to commentator’s remark about the Nadeshiko win is well done, but the commentator was an idiot.

    Japan’s players did not win because they “know” how the American team thinks and plays. The two teams had played each other twice within the preceding twelve months, and had undoubtedly reviewed many additional hours of video of other matches. On top of which, soccer is perhaps the simplest game strategically. The two teams knew everything they needed to know about each other, and about most of the other teams they played in the tournament. Japan won because on a single day, in a single match, almost anything can happen. Nadeshiko was dominated throughout the game, but an awful blunder by an American defender allowed Japan’s first equalizer, and a less egregious but still unforgivable error by the same player permitted the second equalizer. And then in the penalty kicks, of course, anything can happen; Japan was superb and several American players were decidedly not.

    There is a good soccer analogy to be made, however. In sport, a number of top athletes have chosen to make their way in foreign leagues, in order to try to become the best they possibly can, against the best competition. Ichiro and Hidetoshi Nakata are the best examples, I think. Others prefer to remain within their comfort zones, for reasons of pride (it’s nice to be a big fish in a small pond) or money (there’s good money, especially sponsor/advertiser money, in being a big fish in a small pond). And yes, I’m talking about you, Norihiro Nakamura.

    Businesspeople are different to world class athletes. Japan’s soccer players (men and women) and other athletes do well to gain overseas experience because if you want to be the best, you must learn from the best, i.e. play with and against them every day.

    In the Japanese business world, and society more broadly, there is a view that Japan is exceptional, that Japanese people are different. [I have often encountered the same view in Europe, when people learn I’ve lived in Asia for 22 years: many people seem to think Chinese and/or Japanese are very different.] The implication is that the rules are different in Japan, and for Japanese people, and in the Japanese market. Those who travel the world, and interact with people from other cultures, come to learn that that is mostly untrue. People are mostly the same; they appreciate good value and good service at a good price; they come home tired from work and pop open a beer and watch TV. Travel the world and you can see that, and be comfortable with the idea that if you can sell a Walkman to Japanese, you can sell one to Germans, and Americans, and Chileans.


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  3. Tnaks for this article …


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