A few weeks ago, we were offered a spot in the Victorian Government’s 2016 Technology Trade Mission to Japan. For us, this presented an opportunity to make the most of a guided tour of a market that we have long admired. We have also always aspired to engage with this culture of trust.
To my luck, our diverse team holds a wealth of experience from past expeditions into the land of the rising sun. Having aggregated as much water-cooler knowledge as I could possibly manage – I embarked on my first visit to Tokyo.
Lesson #1 – Trust and collaboration
The Japanese are inherently collaborative and trust-worthy – the locals are friendly and will offer whatever assistance they can. My first exposure to this was during an attempt to navigate the myriad of tunneled trains that make up the Tokyo underground. Multiple kind faces offered this confused tourist assistance in this endeavor – despite the lack of any linguistic alignment. I don’t speak Japanese, and a couple of my new friends didn’t speak English. But the encouragement of smiles coupled with the support of Google Maps multilingual support – made the local commute a cinch.
This courtesy extends to professional life as well. The Japanese are approachable and happy to give time to visitors, sharing insights and discussing ideas. This was further evident from the number of meetings that were arranged as the Victorian Government did an exceptional job of arranging visits with a diverse slice of the local economy – ranging from potential partners to active prospects.
It’s no secret that the Japanese market is massive – with a population of 125 million – compared to Australia. However, the average consumer spend is up to 9 times more than the parallel statistic in China. This propels the economy to be at par with their closest neighbors to the west.
Lesson #2 – Little steps toward a larger goal
Kaizen – or a beautiful mindset balanced in patience and consistency towards continual improvement – is a practice evident in everything done in Japan. From the staff in hospitality, to the largest of corporations and in day-to-day life as well. It is an approach engrained in the local mindset – and is a key adjustment for any inbound business.
However, the approachability and open discussion of ideas – very often assumed otherwise – is no indication of a client win. Relationships must be built over time, respect must be earned and when trust is established, negotiations can begin.
The visit coincided with the NEC iExpo 2016, an annual event where regional team leaders and clients of the Japanese technology are invited to explore and experience the latest in their research. The expo was not open to the public – and we were thankful for the invite. It would undermine the experience to summarize it in a blog post. However, the overarching message that hit me was NEC’s impressive pursuit of social value creation and the use of technology towards this goal.
Lesson #3 – Pursue social value creation
The cornerstone of NEC’s business is “Orchestrating a brighter world”. This indicates that even large organizations can consciously “strive to orchestrate projects with people around the world to “co-create” a society that is filled with hope and offers a brighter future for everyone.” NEC invests heavily in research and solutions for smart cities, artificial intelligence, etc, are well above par. With integrated end-to-end solutions, NEC offers a clear, holistic view on how digital transformation can support the population growth.
In the realm of digital transformation, there is much to be learnt from Japanese business culture. The steady approach to understanding every facet of an organizations operations is critical. This allows more analysis on how technology such as Augmented Reality can serve as a medium to add value to a client. Similarly, change management forms a critical part of any transformation, as careful planning and contingency plans are unavoidably critical.
These three lessons are merely the tip of the iceberg from this visit, but are by far the most prudent. At Appearition we make it a point to share what we learn about business culture and values internally. We apply similar practices towards building a stronger value offering for our clients.
To outsiders, we may be just another statistic in the wave of technology start-ups. However, our philosophy is simple and we will not waver from it – respect stakeholders of your ecosystem and create real value for them – and success will come.
Thank you for taking the time to read today, and we look forward to sharing more in the near future.