Which Business Culture Are You In ? One and a Half Week With Prof. Ota Hiroshi

February 28, 2014

So, lately, I’ve been busy with my master program. How is that ? How can be the first few weeks made me so busy ? Well, it is because there’s a visiting professor that came straight from Japan. Okay. His name is Ota Hiroshi. A pretty cool guy. The first time I met him, is on the symposium held by my department. I really surprised by his superb English speech. I mean, I can rarely mention Japanese people who are great in speaking English. Few names would be: Fumio Ito from Kemuri, and, and, well, I can’t really mention anyone else !

Okay, so he came from a university called Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. At first, I was kinda questioned, like, what university is that ? Never heard of it. After I googled it, I was really surprised. It is one of the most prestigious National University in Japan. It were once ranked 25th IN THE WORLD, by an institution in france, I forgot the name, but it is really awesome to know that.

Another first glimpse would be on his subject. He’s teaching the Japanese Business Culture. Well, I don’t know, I never really have any interest AT ALL in economy, so business would be somewhat vain to me. But it turned out, it is like 85% about the culture itself ! Culture ? Simply my most favorite subject. Okay then, I don’t mind at all ! Turned out his method is rather fun. Each of us have to form a group consist of 5-6 peoples, then present the material in front of the class. What really interesting is, Prof. Ota asks us –not necessarily- to make a skit. Well, another one of my favorite, I always love making skits.

Now, I’m gonna try to wrap his lecture on this pop-ish writing. Maybe, on the general theoritical basic on intercultural business communication, not touching the last 3-4 parts of the lecture, which the culture is specifically in Japan only. I think it is kinda pointless to write it here, since I can’t really relate it with my everyday life. So, here I go !

The First one is Power Distance. Power distance is a distance that existed between two people with two different status, which one is higher than other. The theory is, in a Low Power Distance culture, this relation wouldn’t really be a problem,  since the relation between the lower power holder is somewhat democratic to those who held the higher power. While in a High Power Distance culture, the lower power holder realized that there are an unequal power distribution between them.

In this case, I am in the high power distance. The reason is easy. Because I grow up mostly looking up to my mom. In her family, the power distance is still high. My mom and her sisters (and one brother) still call each other with ‘ceuceu’, a Sundanese way to call an older sister, it indicates a high power distance. While in my dad family, the power distance is low, since they just simply call each other by the name.

 I am more comfortable in a culture when the junior calls their senior with honorifics mentioning. I don’t mind if my junior call my only by name, but, I feel more comfortable if they call me using ‘Kang’, or ‘Kak’, or something at first, first few days. But, I really-really feel uneasy if I have to call my senior without those honorifics. Many people  said that seniority is somewhat outdated, militaristic, etc. But, look at Japan, they’re succedeed with that culture.

The Second one is Individualism vs Collectivism. It is simply just like what it said. Individual or collectivist. It is the degree to which individuals are integrated to the groups. It is somewhat that in individual culture, responsibility is shared to the individuals themselves. So, a failure is considered as an own failure. While in the collectivist societies, individuals are part of their own group, so, responsibilities are shared in the group itselves.

In an individual culture, job desc are nicely divided. So, each person wouldn’t have to overlap each other. While in a collectivist culture, job desc are somewhat blurred, and each person are somewhat obliged to help each other. Which one do I feel more comfortable with ? Definitely the first one. I like to work as an individual being in the group. Although, sometimes, I interfere with others work in the group when they’re not working well, it is simply to save my OWN face, if I see my groupmate is failing –which of course will affect the whole group-.  It is fun to work on my own, I don’t need to synchronize with others, I can work on my on pace, which is always up and own, and I don’t really have that kind of responsibilty to meddle with other works, it is somewhat only ethical, but heck, I think everyone should be entitled to their own job. As long as they do it right, doesn’t have to be good, or perfect, just being right, is enough, to make the work done.

The next one is Uncertainty Avoidance. THIS. THIS ONE. IS THE ONE THAT ALWAYS MAKES ME CRINGE EVERY FU**ING DAY. It is simply a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. In a low uncertainty avoidance culture, people are tend to be more relaxed, always try to bend the rules, always being tolerance to everything. While in the high uncertainty avoidance culture, people are tend to stick to the rules, being somewhat anxious, low tolerance towards mistakes, and well planned.

Which one am I ? CERTAINLY THE SECOND ONE. That’s why, I ALWAYS WANT TO LIVE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY. IN JAPAN. WHERE THE UNCERTANTY AVOIDANCE IS HIGH. My mom always told me that everything should be prepared well. I stick to that belief up until know. When I have a class on 8 am, I go to the campus at 6 am. You can never guess 100% when the traffic is being nice or being a dick. It is always better to come too early than late. I know people here are tolerant towards time. But still, it is not the reason to be late. Why coming late if you can come faster or on time ? There are rules right ? Waiting is never a waste. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO WAIT THAN BEING WAITED.

Okay, actually, there are two more points in the general intercultural business theory, Feminity  vs Masculinity, and Short Term vs Long Term Orientation. I don’t really relate myself with those. It is not like I don’t understand the concept or something, but I don’t really want to relate those with myself. Since there are time to be both. Since I think both are good. So, I don’t really want to compare these things.

But the big picture is something like this: In a feminine culture, it is more important to be happy and healthy, than to be rich, the quality of life. While in the masculine culture, it is more important to be rich than to be happy, the quantity of life. In  my point of view, you can always be happy and be rich at the same time. The system does not works like that ? Simply learn it, and cheat the system. Come on.

While in the Short Term vs Long Term Orientation, is how to maintain a relationship with the business partner. In the short term, the deals are only done when the deal is done. After that, there’s no need to continue the relationship with that business partner, unless there’s another deal that would be more beneficial if it is done with that partner. While in the long term orientation, it is more important to maintain that relationship with the business partner, since you don’t know what will happen next. It is more important to see the future of the business than the result of the business in the more short oriented deals. Both are better I think. There are some parties that are better in one time deal, and there are parties that are good in a multiple time deal. Just think the hypernims of friends: best friend, acquiantance, colleague, etc.

That’s all from my point of view. It was a great 1 and half weeks by Prof. Ota. Really hope I can meet him and share some things or two with him. I’ll definitely contact him if I’m going to Japan again someday. Amen.


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