I received a comment on the blog about one of my previous posts…and they had asked for a response.  The comment was…

I read your reflection and I think it is very interesting. But I don’t fully agree on the point of Japanese culture being blindly obedient. I just read an article that came to my mind when I read your post.  Can you please read it and let me know what you think of it?  To me, it discusses the same concern you are having, to some extent.

http://m.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/07/to-make-america-great-again-we-need-to-leave-the-country/259653/

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Great article, and thank you for sending it to me.  I urge you all to have a read.

I absolutely agree with the overarching idea of that article.  There are many things that we can and should learn about how people do things in other parts of the world.  There are many things that are done differently, with many having better end results or other effects such as more efficient use of resources, less waste, safer processes, etc.

I totally endorse the idea of learning about how things are done in other cultures, countries, and companies.  I have spent most of my life in international business and have spent large amounts of time in other cultures.  Not only has my life been enriched by this experience, but I have had the opportunity to see many different ways of doing things from one society to the next…some of which I have copied.  I am frequently surprised by how much opportunity still remains for “cross-fertilization” of ideas.

So, why are we not doing more of this?

From one perspective you could argue that many companies DO do this…as in companies looking for best practices.  Unfortunately, often they only look within their own company, which, of course, limits their pool of possible opportunities.  Still worse, even within companies I have seen cases in which best practices from other parts of the world (OTHER than that of corporate HQ) go unrecognized.  A real missed opportunity.  Remember too, when you allow this failure to occur, not only do you miss the opportunity to benefit from other approaches, but it is demotivating and disenfranchising to the people from those other parts of the operation who have the the good ideas.  It is a failure to recognize their value in the organization.

There is nothing unpatriotic about companies that keep their eyes open for best practices and copy them.  In business school you learn of the “Follower” Strategy of growing and developing your business.  Burger King in the US is a good example of this.  Everywhere McDonalds puts up a restaurant, Burger King puts one up.  Basically they are letting McDonalds do the market research to identify the best locations, and they are just following.  It is not a bad way to save money and reduce risk.  Burger King has done quite well with that strategy.

Similarly, I am sure that you have heard it said that you should shop your competition…contact them and pretend you are a potential customer to find out about their products or services so you can compare to your own and identify ways to improve your own offerings.  How many of us really do that?

I think that one impediment is fear of the unknown.  I truly believe that often people do not want to know if there is a better way.  It means that they are failing or will fail.  Yet, they still do not want to acknowledge it.  It is almost as if it does not exist if they do not know about it.

Another is fear of change and all that goes with changing the way things are done…selling the new approach, getting the buy-in, orchestrating the change process, dealing with the resistance to change.  People often do not want to put in the effort.

Well, there are many different ways of doing things around the world…many differences…many advantages to different ways.

Get outta town and look around!

Thanks for sharing.