Look around and you’ll notice that Japanese firms lead the way in so many industries— electronics, cars, industrial equipment, and more. How did they get so successful? After all, the island nation is home to only 126 million people, roughly a third of the American population and a tiny fraction of their giant neighbor to the west, China. Here are a few reasons why Japan is uniquely positioned to develop these industry behemoths and some lessons that international businesses might learn from them.
Japanese culture deeply values hard work, a legacy that spans millennia and greatly predates the modern corporation. A detailed examination into why Japan places such high emphasis on hard work would be lengthy but suffice it to say that efficient use of resources against larger regional competitors has played a large role. The average Japanese worker puts in about 1,713 hours per year, making it one of the hardest-working places on Earth.
Innovated the Business Environment
Brand-new Japanese business models took the industrial revolution to a whole new level. Both the Toyota production system and lean theories completely changed how businesses operate. There are several theories for why the Japanese seem to possess such an innate talent for building, maintaining, and innovating systems, but there’s no doubt that Japanese firms have set the global standard for efficiency. These companies have consistently kept on top of the latest trends, most recently the tendency toward globalization—the spread of supply chains across continents and the opening of previously untapped markets to foreign exploitation.
Unity of Purpose
In the West, diversity is celebrated—diversity of thought, ethnic diversity, cultural diversity, etc. Diversity certainly has its benefits such as new ideas permeating to the surface and fresh voices being heard and valued. Japanese society is largely homogenous, on the other hand, meaning that the island nation is made up almost entirely of a single group with a singular identity. Having one identify lends itself to the unity of purpose, which is a major asset to any business. Japanese people think of themselves as units of a whole, whether that means as part of a company or a nation. This kind of unity fuels growth and drives efficiency.
The Japanese offer so much in the way of instruction for firms looking to streamline and boost productivity. There is arguably no better industrial model than the Toyota production system and similar systems from other Japanese companies.
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