Strengths & Weaknesses: Japan and America

Japanese Television Programming I have been thinking about Japanese TV programming. To me, it is the worst. I can’t understand when good shows are on. American “prime time” is around 5-7pm, right? Well, in Japan shows on at that time are no different than the rest of the day. And channels don’t discriminate. Channels show whatever they want, when they want. You’ll be watching a cooking show, then at a quarter past the hour an infomercial will come on that lasts 15 minutes. After that, it could be the news, it could be an animated show. You really don’t know. What’s more, the shows are…pointless? I once watched a show about married people. Everyone wore stickers on their shirts that said how long they’d been married. Then, one-by-one people would come up to tell their marriage problem. There would be a video re-enactment, and then everyone would give their advice. (…Continues below)I have never asked someone why programming is the way it is. These are just my own thoughts. In comparison with American TV, I can assume not as many people watch TV in Japan. Next, I could assume that since there aren’t that many people watching, not many networks worry about how many people watch any given show. Thereby, they do not filter shows that are under-performing. OR maybe Japanese like this kind of TV. My 70 year old Japanese teacher said she loves watching TV. She said there are many interesting programs. So, maybe that is the demographic. Maybe I am not the demographic and I do not have the right taste for these shows. In the U.S., a show has to out-perform to be renewed. Shows that do “okay” are given the boot very quickly.

And then I thought…why is it that way? You know, this situation reminds me of why I see on a daily basis working in a Japanese office. So many times I have to stop and realize how different the two cultures are. Not because I am dead set on pointing these things out, but because recognizing helps me to understand the people that I work with and understand the situation better.

StrengthsQuest Have you ever heard of StrengthsQuest? It is a personality evaluation test. The test identifies your five top strengths. I had to take it for a class in high school and a class in college. It identifies what your strengths and weaknesses and how they can help you understand where you best fit in the workplace, or in a career path, for example. Well, what if I put the U.S. and Japan to that type of evaluation? Without taking the test, I did just that. See, understanding what these countries focus on – where their strengths lie – identifies the integral nature of the culture. The current U.S. system can be described using StrengthsQuest traits as: Maximizer, Achiever, Command, Competition, and Command. Over the past 30 years specifically, in a push for better stock numbers, to make the board of directors happy and to make the CEO rich, corporations have focused on cutting the bottom line. That means layoffs and fewer people doing more work. We like to maximize everything. To succeed as a company is not just to net a profit, but to increasingly increase that profit. We like to command a room, command leadership. We always want to be achieving more. This is what makes us, “us”.

Where does Japan lie? Japan values a different set of strengths entirely. Japan can be described as: Consistency, Strategic, Connectedness, Harmony and Input. See, where I (the American) face a group task naturally in a position to lead, my Japanese counterparts wait for a group decision to arise. Just this week, three of us office girls had to go to an apartment to put up newly cleaned curtains. (I do not make this stuff up) We got set up and no one was talking. No one made a move. So, I said, “Does anyone have experience putting up curtains?” None of us did. Then, I delegated the roles. I could tell this was rude in their opinion and I softened my statements, allowing them to decide differently if they wanted. After that it got confusing and I wish I could be in a place to take control. For them, time is irrelevant. In my American mind, there is something else we need to do, we are wasting time so we should get this done quickly. For them, the top priority is to get this done right. Quality over quantity, right? Yes. The Japanese are the pros at quality. Did you know the letters ‘YKK’ on your zipper stand for the world’s biggest zipper company….it is Japanese. (Watch video here) And they value connectedness, a group opinion. I can’t tell you how many times a co-worker has to call another co-worker to get confirmation about a decision. Even as simple as which coffee to purchase for the office. Moreover, they believe in hiring enough people for the job. You’ll generally find everyone is given enough time to do their respective duties.

Anyways, feel free to chime in. This is a stream of consciousness and not in anyway a finite view of the countries.