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The digital life has been well established in Japan and Switzerland. In contrast, however, the presence of women in the ICT (information and communication technologies) conferences and the industries is surprisingly low — twenty percent (20%) of all the workers in the ICT industry, and only five percent who speak at ICT conferences!

To encourage women to participate in and become visible in the ICT scene, Ms Taïssa Charlier launched “Women in Digital  Switzerland” (WDS, hereafter), a group created in LinkedIn in January 2014. Starting with about 20 people in the group, WSD had grown to host 200 members in a few months! These members came to know WSD only via word of the mouth.

Portal of Women in Digital Switzerland.

Portal of Women in Digital Switzerland.

Need to push forward more opinions from women

Taïssa is a young and dynamic professional of digital marketing. The original reason that made her to stand up to unite women via WDS was a prohibitively high cost of the kindergarten in Switzerland. Being a single mother, she needs a kindergarten to keep her child while she works in daytime. She soon found that the fee for the kindergarten is almost the same as her monthly salary. “Women can’t work outside home! We must make the opinions of women heard in society”, she thought.

Taïssa soon realised that women are heavily under represented in the ICT industry, despite an increasing number of professional women in the industry. “Something must be done”, she thought.  Her answer was to create a system on the network for women to inspire and to be inspired, to be connected with peers, to share best practices and, thus, to increase their visibility and presence profession.

Mutual support by information exchange and discussion

WDS rightly hit the needs of professional women, who have been scattered around and rather isolated in digital profession in Switzerland.

Taïssa said, “I wish WSD to grow starting from the information exchange to become a platform for women to inspire each other. I wish WSD become a media to empower women in the future.”

The language of WSD is English. Taïssa, though she is a Franco phone herself, decided to use English as the language of the group so that women in other language groups of Switzerland may join and exchange information across the different language zones in the country.

“It’s my giving back project”

For Taïssa, having a large number of participants is not a major purpose of the WSD. “I wish to give back to those wonderful people I met by providing WSD for women to meet wonderful people.”

She further went on to say that fully utilising women’s talent is a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for companies. Giving opportunities to women and grow them is a contribution to the society.

The author has come to know a workingwomen’s network launched based on a similar idea in Japan. The social media helps you to be connected with like-minded people even though you find none around. With the policy of the Prime Minister Abe to utilise women for the economic development of Japan, networks of professional women’s mutual support based on the social media will grow.

THE ARTICLE POSTED ABOVE IS A SUMMARY. The original article is in Japanese and published in “Akebono”, a monthly journal in Japan, in June 2014. Ten thousand copies are issued every month.

JETRO Geneva, a branch of Japan External Trade Organization issues monthly Newsletter. The feature article for its November issue is Europe-Japan Dynamics.

Consultancy services doe cross cultural Management

Yoshiko Kurisaki has started a consultancy business ‘Europe-Japan Dynamics’ to help Swiss and European companies for cross-cultural management with Japan.

25 years in Europe

Business manners in Japan

Services for Swiss and Japanese companies”

JETRO  (日本貿易振興機構)ジュネーブオフィスでは、毎月ニュースレターを発行し「英語)、スイスの日本企業や、日本経済の動向などを伝えています。11月号の、企業紹介に(1ページ目)、ヨーロッパ ジャパン ダイナミクスが紹介されました

 

“Clues for success in doing business with Japan – Highlights of the interviews with Swiss business people”, published at CCIG (Chambre de commerce, d’industrie et des services de Genève) web site.

 
「日本のビジネス文化をどう読み解く?日本人と仕事をした14人のスイス人ビジネスパーソンに聞く」ージュネーブ商工会議所のウェブサイトに掲載されました。

http://www.ccig.ch/Portals/0/Users/Article_Clues%20for%20success%20in%20doing%20business%20with%20Japan%20docx.pdf

 

Tokyo railway station conserves its history surrounded by hi-rise buildings

Tokyo railway station conserves its history surrounded by hi-rise buildings

How to read Japan in business

  • Date : Thursday 6th of November 2014 from 08:00 to 10:30
  • Lieu : CCIG, bd du Théâtre 4, Geneva
  • Organisation : CCIG in collaboration with the Europe-Japan Dynamics and Vdf Coaching and Cultures

Do you want to know how to kick-start your business with Japan ?

The year 2014 commemorates the 150th anniversary of the beginning of official relations between Switzerland and Japan, 1864 – 2014. The CCIG in collaboration with the Europe-Japan Dynamics and Vdf Coaching and Cultures.is seizing this opportunity to organise a seminar exploring the embedded role of Japanese culture in business.

The intercultural concept needs to be fully understood and implemented in doing business with Japan, as the cultural gap between Switzerland and Japan is unimaginably wide.

75% of all international ventures do not achieve the expected results due to cultural issues.” KPMG, 2009.

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Crossing the culture gap

Through a presentation and exercises, you will learn how to go beyond your own mental and cultural programming to work better with your international business partners. The seminar will highlight the essential importance of cultural differences in business, lay out a set of values underlying the Japanese business culture, and guide you towards the right entrance into understanding how to do business with Japan. At the end of the seminar, you will better understand the reasons why Japan looks so unique and why the country appears so complex when seen from the point of view of a European set of values. You will be at ease with “How to read Japan” !

For registration — Click here

Do you know an invisible trap in doing business with Japan?

In appearance, Japan is not different from Europe; modern buildings, fancy cars and people dressed like Europeans. In reality at work, however, the country is very different.

What have Swiss business people learnt from their experience with Japan? Europe-Japan Dynamics interviewed fourteen (14) Swiss business people who had the first-hand business experience with the country.

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Tokyo Station (The south entrance)

Tokyo Station (The south entrance)

Overall, all the people interviewed like the Japanese as business partners and in a personal relationship. All think the Japanese reliable, polite, engaged and respectful to others. Many experts appreciated a long-term approach taken by the Japanese as this attitude creates better values in business.

That said, all the experts said that communication and a long time needed in decision-making had been considerably large challenges. Challenges in communication go beyond language issues. Even though both Swiss and Japanese speak good English, Swiss business people were puzzled by the Japanese reaction, as typically expressed by one manager, “I was often not sure if my Japanese business partners understood me.” It often takes a few years for Swiss people to understand how to interpret the Japanese “Yes” in the Japanese business cultural context.

"Ringi sho" - An important process in Japanese decision-making

“Ringi sho” – An important process in Japanese decision-making

A Japanese way of decision-making is another big challenge. The Japanese spend a long time in Swiss standard to reach a conclusion, and it is difficult for the Swiss to find who the decision-maker is.

Swiss business people see a good point in the Japanese decision-making, though. “The strength of Japan is that once agreed, the decision is firm and all the people work exactly as decided”, one interviewee said.

Despite these challenges, many Swiss companies are running successful business with Japan. They have learned through experience many clues for success. For example, it is important to ensure mutual understanding by asking questions step by step, and follow up on important matters. Soft and informal communication is “Must”. Some went out for a drink after work to discuss business matters with his Japanese clients. Or, some other played golf with Japanese business partners in weekends. Yet other visited museums or travelled outside Tokyo in weekends to better understand the country.

The study found that the common success factors are; to respect and accept different values, as one interviewee said, “Japan has its own way of doing things”, to be extremely patient, and to build the mutual trust before pushing business. The interviewees emphasised large advantages of doing business in the Japanese language, or at least, to work with a Japanese person who knows business. The centre of the matter is business culture, more than a language. Understanding the culture and value-set embedded in business is critical, even though it is not as visible as other concrete business matters as finance, products, R&D, or sales & marketing.

Last but not the least, human resource factors are far from negligible. Having a cultural competence is essential to do business with Japan. Underestimating the importance of cultural management in business may cost much.

About the study — From April to July 2014, Europe-Japan Dynamics interviewed fourteen (14) Swiss business people who had first hand experience with Japan. Their industries varied, including legal, financial and human resource services, pharmaceutical, academic and luxury goods sectors. The author is very thankful to the 14 people who were willing to spare time and thoughts for the study.

For a free copy of the synthesis or consultation on your business issues with Japan, please call or write to –

Yoshiko KURISAKI (Ms), Director, Europe-Japan Dynamics

Tel. +41 (0) 76 411 6076, E-mail yoshiko.kurisaki@gmail.com

Ten hotels in a tag and delivery without mistake

Ten hotels in a tag and delivery without mistake

The Japanese Art is the finest in the world and so is the service, including luggage handling by the airport limousine.

Arriving from Europe at Narita International Airport, Susan was surprised at the tag attached to her luggage at the bus stop of the airport limousine. It was her first business travel to Japan. (The luggage may look funny but it’s for her business travel.) A man at the stop asked her hotel, and marked a green circle on the name printed to the tag. On the tag, the names of the ten hotels are neatly listed and printed (see photo). These are the hotels at which the bus will stop by along the way in downtown Tokyo.

When the bus arrived at the hotel, Susan’s luggage was taken out without mistake. If it were some other countries, which may include some in Europe, Susan would have had to keep her eyes on her luggage to make sure that it would be taken off at the right hotel. In Japan, Susan had nothing to worry about.

It may be a small experience but gave a strong impression to Susan to understand how much attention is paid to the detail and the Japanese standard of the perfect service.

It is said that the Japanese works in a group. What does that mean to you? There is always a risk to take a simple statement on one culture such as this word by word. The statement could help you if you interpret it in each case you may encounter. A simple statement may not help if you interpret it in your own cultural context alone. Nancy recently had an experience to understand what “the Japanese works in a group” could mean to her.

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Financial District in Geneva

Nancy works for a large travel agency in Switzerland. She is in charge of business travels of large accounts. Her company has travel, and event & entertainment logistic departments. Nancy belongs to the travel department.

One day, she asked me, “Yoshiko, why does my Japanese customer always put me in copy of his messages for the subject which I’m not involved in? I know him well as I take care of his business travels, but this is too much. ” “What happened, Nancy?” “He asked me a few months ago if my company could organise an important event for his company. I introduced my colleague, Ingrid, who works for the event & entertainment department. Mr. Suzuki, my customer, and Ingrid started discussion on the event. That is fine. My problem is that he always puts me in copy of his e-mails! I don’t need to be informed on the ongoing discussions. It’s Ingrid who is in charge of the event logistics, not me. I can’t help him.”

I’d understand why Mr. Suzuki always puts Nancy in copy. He trusts Nancy as she has been helpful for him, whereas Ingrid is new to him. He most probably thinks that Nancy should be in the communication loop on his discussions with Ingrid. In his eyes, Nancy introduced Ingrid to him. Therefore if he gets some problem in organizing the event logistics, he’d ask Nancy to help.

Mr. Suzuki’s behavior is popular in Japan. People share tasks in the workplace in Japan. Each person has his/her assignment but the boundaries of responsibilities are not always clear-cut. People work by sharing responsibilities. The decision-making is largely based on consensus, rather than on decision by one person who is delegated some levels of responsibility. Under such circumstances, it is not unusual that four or five or even more people are in copy of e-mails exchanged on one subject. If someone is missed out from the loop, he/she would be upset. People are comfortable to be kept in copy, even though the subject matter may be only marginally relevant to them.

In such a work culture, it is safe to keep all the people informed, even some may only be remotely involved. For Nancy, it is on the contrary. Boundaries of responsibilities are clear in Europe, or at least clearer than Japan. In her eyes, the event support for Mr. Suzuki is solely under responsibility of Ingrid. Nancy does not need to know what’s going on with it or can’t help Mr. Suzuki in her position.

That said, Nancy’s emotional intelligence tells her that Mr. Suzuki wants to keep her in copy. “It’s OK”, she thought. She just let the e-mail exchange going without stepping in the discussion.

A few months later, Nancy went to the airport to see-off Mr. Suzuki, who was leaving Switzerland to assume a new position back in Tokyo. Being a travel agent, Nancy usually doesn’t do the same for other customers. When I asked why she did it, Nancy said, “When Mr. Suzuki had advised me that he was going back to Japan, I read his mind. He wanted me to say ‘Thank you and good bye’ at the airport. He was a good customer, so I thought it’s OK, I’ll do. ” Nancy well assessed her customer’s mind-set! Assessing what’s in other person’s mind is very important in communication with the Japanese.

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