One of our favourite fields at RGB total Strategy is inter-cultural connection, and no culture is more fascinating (in our opinion) than Japan. Wondering how I got bitten by this particular bug? I lived in Japan- Tokyo, to be specific. I worked in a number of positions at what was the Israeli flagship at the time, Scitex (Nihon Scitex), visited dozens of clients throughout the country and encountered different ways of thinking, language and daily behaviours in and outside of the workplace.
Numerous Israeli entrepreneurs, who express interest in partnering with Japanese companies, find themselves failing already in the initial stages. The good news is: it's not (only) because of you.
One could generalize that Japanese culture worships success and treats failure as a mark of shame. The social cost of failure is too high to stand and it thus follows that a Japanese initiative, fearing failure, is liable to freeze even before taking its first steps.
Recently, though there has been more openness with regard to young people founding start-ups, as well as more accelerator programs in which start-ups from all over the world take part, there is still a long way to go.
In Start-up Nation (Israel), on the other hand, it's simply a fact of life that failure is part of the process. Many entrepreneurs take the "that which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" approach and come back stronger from failures by learning the relevant lessons. The insight gained will help them succeed when the next initiative or project begins to take form.
In fact, those entrepreneurs who tried their luck and failed are considered more reliable and experienced, and their chances at venture capital funds are greater than those of entrepreneurs who are just starting out.
Unlike other countries, the Covid-19 effect created very few business opportunities in Japan. In my opinion, one of the reasons for this is the ingrained, collectivist Japanese business culture. ZOOM meetings are not the same as in-person. From conversations I had with Israeli business people, the process during the Covid-19 period was slower and tougher. (Tell me who you are and then what you do? It's impossible to skip over the creation of a system of personal relations).
As Sinor and Zinger stated in their book:
"Without cultural tolerance for a large number of failures, it's impossible to achieve true innovation".
In recent years, with the continuing recession in Japan and the need to locate new growth engines, the Japanese are also beginning to comprehend that start-up companies and accelerators are one of the ways to spur growth.
At the same time, however, the same fear of failure serves as an obstacle in the path of these companies. Apart from a lack of natural resources, Japan is not lacking in any other economic resources or supportive and groundbreaking technology. Notwithstanding, the number of Japanese entrepreneurs and initiatives is significantly lower than what we see over here in Israel.
In a study by the GEM consortium in 2019 it emerged that the path to an entrepreneurial career was perceived in Japan as having a lesser reputation, in addition to the fear of failure. https://www.gemconsortium.org/economy-profiles/japan-2
This gives the impression that the proper, and more precise answer lies in the fear of failure.
One of the greatest pieces of wisdom in creating business partnerships, and even more so when building inter-cultural partnerships, is the ability to identify the weak points of your potential partners and to leverage them into advantages.
After all, the famous Israeli nerve, the lack of formality and the willingness to challenge conventions are the perfect antithesis to Japan's conservative mentality. In effect, and in keeping with Zen philosophy, it is specifically the lack of harmony which leads to harmony, and the combination of strengths between the daring and the conservative is likely to beget powerful success stories.
“Japan is good at taking things from zero to one, and not so much at taking them from one to 10”. “Japan wins in technology and loses in business.” said Akira Amari, tax chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a former minister of state for economic and fiscal policy. (Two Tokyo Olympics show the long Arc of Japan's Tech decline).
We would be pleased to open the door for you to the world of Japanese entrepreneurship, ties to Japanese accelerators, strategic alliances, improved inter-cultural communications and more.
We offer personal guidance and workshops in negotiation management, inter-cultural business communications with emphasis on Japan, all based on dozens of years of experience in the business and entrepreneurial world in Japan, Israel and additional countries.