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Japanese businesses have lost the power of on-site improvisation

イノベーション English

--During your work as a consultant, what changes have occurred in your clients? How do you think the change in your clients is changing the world?

One very important thing is the method of improvisation. Up until now clients have followed a pattern of executing plans made beforehand based on previous plans. Currently, extreme changes are taking place and handling issues on-site is becoming very important, so on-site improvisation can greatly influence the development of a business. This could even be called a company's strength.

Originally, even Michael Porter got angry at Japanese companies, saying that they "had no strategy." Some places were built upon on-site improvisations rather than executive decisions handed down from above. However, in recent years this has been lost and must be reclaimed.

--The Japanese people originally had the power of improvisation, didn't they?

Yes. It is a stereotype, but it is said that even if the high-ups are clueless, the people on-site are very competent, so they support the company. However, when on-site personnel lost their authority due to compliance issues and had to submit inquiries for everything, it became hard for them to improvise. The problem is how to reclaim improvisation in the midst of this.

--When I think of improvisation, I imagine a spontaneous theatrical performance; but in what concrete ways is it implemented on-site?

The simplest example of improvisation would be like how a concierge at a hotel handles guests. For example he might get asked something irregular, for example a guest says, "I want ten towels." While thinking "How weird; why does this person need ten towels?" he says, "Let me check," then tells other workers, "That person sure is strange." Somehow or another, the guest will be able to understand what is going on and then feel very uncomfortable and have a harder time asking for things.

However, a concierge in a place with improvisation will first accept saying, "Ten towels? Of course." Without hesitation. After that he will ask why the guest needs ten towels. "Could I ask what you will use the towels for?" Then for example he is told "I just want to use a clean towel every time I after go to the pool," and responds with "I can bring you ten towels right now, or if you prefer I could bring you five today and five tomorrow," presenting a suggestion more desirable to the guest.

First, accept what the other person is saying, no matter what. After that, expand on it and make further observations. This will bring about further developments. Without this sort of improvisation, you won't be able to develop products convenient to the users or provide hospitality.

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