Brainstorming: Japanese way, North American way

In business context, with average workers:

Brain storming the Japanese way: In order for one to have a successful brain storming session with Japanese, setting time, meeting in a formal conference room, to have a high ranking superior attend will not be a good set up. If such set up is used, it will take some coaxing of free exchange of ideas, and it takes time. Presence of superior will restrict the session since people are thoroughly trained for obedience by the education system. If one was to round up a few people in a moment’s notice in an open area, one has better chance of good brain storming session. Whichever the way, a good facilitator who keeps the group focused is a must.

Brain storming the North American way: Easy to have a good brain storming session, since most people are self initiating. Not much encouragement is needed to get ideas flowing. Although space factor do exist, wherever the session is conducted, workers are less reserved than Japanese.

2 thoughts on “Brainstorming: Japanese way, North American way”

  1. In an OB (Organizational Behavior) class I attended a couple of years ago, I found out that establishment and development of social networks vary between Japan and NA. It seems to me that American people prefer a casual conversation, which gets brain storming easier, so that space factor matters more than Japanese people do.

    In that class, a university visiting professor as well as an IBM consultant talked about knowledge management. He said that they first draw a map of social networks of a company/division to analyze and find bottle necks of knowledge sharing/transfer. Then they propose such ways as changing the office layout to make key people communicate more often.

    Well, I do think such analysis is also important to Japanese offices, but may be based upon a bit different philosophies, due to Japanese business customs such as the way of brain storming or the unique job rotation system that tie persons who enter their company at the same time, which may finally result in phenomena of “autonomous” knowledge tranfer, or Kaizen.


  2. seki-san, many thanks for your comment! Your input is valuble.

    Based on my limited experiences in brain storming sessions with North Americans and Japanese groups, North Americans seemed they were more relaxed, compared to Japanese regardless of location. Perhaps it is relative issue of method in expression.

    Also, generally speaking, Japanese seems to be good at kaizen kind of brain storming, where North Americans good at starting with general, new ideas.


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