Testing the Global Relevance of Japan

Our latest Trends article was authored by Charley Wilson.  Charley is one of the communications profession’s most successfully versatile, energetic and team-oriented individuals.  Charley now consults with a number of mid-sized companies and organizations on crisis management, crisis communications and integrated marketing activities, including KPOST, Inc., Dan’s Hamburgers, Inc., Callahan’s General Store, Capitol Feed & Milling Co., and the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley. He specializes in crisis management and crisis communications training for Consult P3.  You can reach Charley at charley.wilson88@gmail.com

The relevance of Japan as a world economic power and – more important –
world citizen is under scrutiny once again. And for good reason.

The crisis within that island nation is deep as its volcanoes, wide as the
nearby Pacific trenches, scary as Godzilla and about as ugly as Mothra. And
as big and disastrous as the 8.9-scale earthquake and ensuing tsunami were,
Japan’s problems might even be greater than we can imagine. They really need
UltraMan to save the day.

But don’t expect to get answers – or any detailed information, for that
matter – in the timely way that we’re accustomed to receiving in our Western
culture. Instant gratification will have to yield to patience. I clearly do
not profess to be a cultural expert; however, as someone who lived in Japan
as a child and who has been involved in Japan businesses activities as an
adult, my advice is this: take a deep breath… and wait… and wait.

The Japanese are both admirably and notoriously meticulous in their overall
approach to taking care of themselves and their business. They are
perfectionists. They are well organized. They are success driven.
They are resilient.

But transparency is not part of their cultural identity. They are an
intentionally insulated society. They carefully control what they say and
how they say it. Their media is deferential to the government, and there’s
even a class-system within the media that determines which outlet gets which

In crisis, outsiders’ points of view are dutifully studied by the Japanese.
But, unless there is a long-standing and well-established relationship, the
opinions of non-Japanese are not immediately trusted.

And, quite possibly, because of this ingrained behavior, Japan has slipped
once again in the ever-changing world theater. The government has frequently
been in and out of the scandal repair shop. Their national airline is
bankrupt. Their leading automobile manufacturer is mired in quality
assurance problems. And, now, one of their country’s nuclear power plants
might soon dump a deadly vapor on everyone in the world who lives downwind.

Let’s hope that Japan welcomes the rest of the world’s compassion.
After all, thousands are dead and more are missing from the tragic tsunami.
Thousands of survivors need immediate help.

And, yes the nuclear power plant issue is just as terrifying, if not more,
for them as it is for the rest of us. In a culture where the pride of saving
face belies all actions, the causes for the nuclear disaster will eventually
get answers and – we hope – their actions will be corrected. Until then,
we’re only left to hope for the best possible outcome.

So, if you’re looking for immediate answers, transparency and accountability
from our friends in the Land of the Rising Sun, well, don’t hold your
breath. Not gonna happen. Just be patient… and wait.