"Brainwashing" Stymies Japan's Managers

Japan Inc.'s young management blood will never turn companies Around unless they change the fundamental social functioning of our country ("Fetch me a Westerner," Asian Business, Mar. 8).

From the West, Japan may appear to be a democratic country, but it is not. Individual well-being takes a backseat to the prosperity of organizations. People have been psychologically manipulated, through education and corporate induction rituals, to suppress personal feelings in order not to destroy the "managed harmony" of groups. Self-sacrifice for the organization has been elevated, to the detriment of personal lives. In the West, our system would be recognized as nothing less than brainwashing, but to most Japanese, it is so insidious as to be imperceptible.

Furthermore, "consensus-based" decision-making has created tacit agreements that everyone is responsible for decisions, but nobody is accountable. Together with other nondemocratic features, this has not only created a brain-dead system, but also never allowed our country to produce leaders with the clear vision or emotional strength to implement bold measures. It has produced incompetent, indecisive elites, contaminated with corruption, as demonstrated by recurring scandals.

Our country needs skilled specialists who are on a par with their international counterparts. Fortunately, Japan has many enthusiastic, business-oriented young people with graduate degrees, including MBAs from the West. If Japanese companies would regard these degrees not as honorary medals but as appropriate qualifications for higher duties, the organizational health would improve without many Jack Welches.

Hiromichi Ota


Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.