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What businesses can learn from this Japanese idea of “enough”

 

 

japanese national flag

Have you ever asked yourself whether the Western business way is the “only” way.

From my experience in helping large Western corporations – the Western prevailing attitude is: MORE

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The profit line always has to move up and to the right.

The  numbers for next quarter or next month always have to be MORE than this quarter or  this month.

The bigger and faster the MORE – the better.

If it’s not MORE – you are failing.

I understand – this attitude drives success and improvement. That’s what business is about. That’s one of the reasons why Western businesses are so successful.

However….

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I recently had an enlightening “lesson” from an experienced Australian executive who loves visiting Japan – especially the smaller villages near the snow fields.

He told me with wide-eyed amazement about these little family-owned eating places where the owners stop being a business for the night – when they have made ENOUGH money.

It’s as if they calculate how many people or meals they need to serve to make ENOUGH money for their business for the day. Then once they reach that ENOUGH amount – they stop working and start enjoying the rest of their night. No more business allowed in  – no more customers wanted – no more profits needed or wanted.

My Australian friend seemed very impressed with what he witnessed – this  “effortless” discipline of knowing  when to  say ENOUGH.

Now I understand  these small family businesses have flexibility that big businesses do not have. Maybe it’s a “family business” thing!

They probably have this ENOUGH attitude engrained in them.

japanese national flag

Japan is also the origin of the Kaizen philosophy of striving for continuous  (slow) incremental improvement.

I work a lot in Asia and I enjoy learning from non-Western business approaches. I’ve learned to change my style and adapt to Asian values regarding business presentations and etiquette.

I understand that many Asian businesses also adopt the Western MORE approach.

Many Asian businesses DO work their people very hard to achieve  the MORE – higher production targets etc. – but it’s also interesting to see what I call more “patient” approaches to business and attaining the MORE.

Sometimes getting there slowly with incremental improvement  is ENOUGH.

The way I interpret Kaizen is: sometimes small improvements are ENOUGH.

Put all the small improvements together over time  and you get the MORE – just without the Western pressured and stressed striving for more.

Maybe I’m “soft” in admiring this approach. I’m just impressed with Asian business attitude of patience and longer-term strategic thinking.

From my experience in helping with Asian-Western negotiations, Westerners often put too much pressure on themselves by expecting the MORE too quickly.

Westerners can benefit from developing greater business patience – and knowing when there’s been ENOUGH business achieved for the day.

Sometimes you don’t get to the “business” until after several meetings.

KAIZEN

I’m not saying that ALL Japanese businesses are driven by the  ENOUGH rather than the MORE attitude.

I just thought this ENOUGH attitude was a refreshing change to our usual “Western” quest for  MORE...MORE…MORE!

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Some of the smaller “boutique” businesses I deal with in Australia seem to  be  starting to enjoy the power of saying ENOUGH.

Many lawyers I know – escaped working in a big firm and  started their own boutique firms and seem to rebel against the big firm work ethic and MORE attitude. 

There is real power saying ENOUGH – and (from doing your calculations) KNOWING what and when  is ENOUGH.

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What do you think?

Do you know any other cultures or countries where this ENOUGH attitude exists?

Is there a place for the ENOUGH attitude in some Western businesses?

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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.

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Cheers,

Tony

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