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Guest Lecture: "Business in Japan"

Nov 07, 2019 04:00 pm to 05:30 pm

Prof Will Baber (Kyoto University, School of Management) Business and Negotiations in Japan


Abstract: In this presentation and interactive discussion, Will Baber of Kyoto University Graduate School of Management will outline some underlying differences in Japanese culture generally and more specifically in business life as well as in negotiation practice. Some features of life and business in Japan spring from ancient forms of governance and understandings about relationships. One of these is the division of authoritative control and administrative implementation typified by the emperor/shogun relationship. This division shifts the burden of risk from the greater figurehead or institution to the practitioner, i.e from the emperor to the shogun. Its parallel in the modern business world explains how senior figures apologize publicly, yet often escape serious punishment. However, ancient practices do not always relate clearly to current behaviors. Simple cause-effect explanations do not always help understanding. Thus it is also useful to look at specific behaviors in the narrower context of daily working life. These behaviors often relate to the level of comfort (安心) people feel toward certain kinds of interactions as well as business or social contracts. For example daily rituals, office layout, boss-subordinate interactions may be impacted by these ideas. Understanding that these different behaviors and underlying viewpoints exist will help business people understand goals and motivations of other parties.


Regarding negotiation, this discussion will touch on interaction schemas, casually called mindsets, which guide the overall thinking and behavior of negotiators. Japanese business people tend to access different mindsets than negotiators from other cultures. Although such differences have be ascribed to culture, research by the speaker has shown that experience and decision making are more likely to predict how many different mindsets a negotiator is able to use. Nonetheless, some variation among cultures has been identified in a pilot study comparing Finnish and Japanese business people. The speaker’s current research includes Indian business people as well and shows some preferences for and against certain mindsets. Where mindsets match, communication and outcomes may be improved. Where there are mismatches, there may be breakdowns in negotiations. The mindsets were identified through searches of literature, cases, and interviews with business people. They include processes to explore information or create feelings of fairness, win/lose or win/win approaches, gut feelings, and exchanges. Identifying personal preferences about these mindsets and learning new ones may help negotiators to understand their business partners and adjust their own actions.


Will Baber is teaching and researching negotiation and business models at the Graduate School of Management, Kyoto University. He also teaches as a visiting professor at University of Vienna and University of Jyväskylä. Previously he worked in economic development in the State of Maryland. He is lead author of the textbook Practical Business Negotiation, (Routledge 2015). Recent articles include Transition to Digital Distribution Platforms and Business Model Evolution as well as Identifying Macro Phases Across the Negotiation Lifecycle. Negotiation simulations include Mukashi Games and Pixie and Electro Car Merger, both available through TheCaseCentre.org.


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