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Sunday, April 1, 2012


Overcoming digital disconnect

Kure, Hiroshima

Regarding the March 28 editorial "Challenges for electronics makers": Things have only just started to change in Japan, so I'd like to believe that this is just a confusing transition phase that will be overcome after much debate and hard bargaining.

These days, innovative ideas are not so forthcoming, either in technology or the business world. And mismanagement sometimes leads to extra hours of work, for which Japan is infamous.

Most Japanese can work very hard, although it is probably more productive to work a bit less hard and more systematically, with the bigger picture in mind and some relaxation time to spend alone in contemplation or with family and friends.

Alas, these forms of relaxation are a "luxury" that few can afford these days, although they cost nothing except time (cutting back on some things to make way for others).

We should focus on quality — the real strength of Japan — rather than on quantity. And rather than focus only on cost cuts by outsourcing bulk work, we should focus on forging ties — such as building camaraderie with local personnel, improving strategic overseas infrastructure, creating new markets, and developing trust plus a sense of brotherhood and equal partnership. Otherwise, all the talk about globalization and internationalization, blah blah, will hardly amount to much more than making a few quick bucks in other countries that provide cheap labor to help Japan tide over the economic crisis, which was a result of Japan's excesses.

The more we learn and appreciate other cultures and different ways of thinking, the better will be our chances of thriving. We read of the coming of the age of customization. In order to customize, we need to know the customer, and to know the customer, one must meet the customer in his or her surroundings. No amount of translation or description can explain all the problems.

As Swami Vivekananda said in his speech "Why We Disagree" (1893), the frog in the well cannot understand the frog from the sea. He refuses to believe in the vastness of the sea. So, hiring someone to explain the richness of foreign markets may not always deliver the expected results unless one knows and understands.

Japan is a small country, but has much to teach. The thing to figure out is what to teach and how to teach it.

We can start small, and small is beautiful!

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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