Thursday, September 5, 2013

Word of the Day: Nemawashi

The word of the Day is Nemawashi.

From the Urban Dictionary:

Japanese term that has come to mean "preparing the way for an idea". It literally describes the process of smoothing out roots before planting (so that the plant will have an easier time taking hold).
The practice of nemawashi often makes Japanese corporate meetings disconcerting to Westerners who expect to hear others raise concerns openly.
Here is a good video on the subject:

American decision making styles are much different than Japanese ones. One problem with Americans not laying the groundwork before a decision is made is, while the decision making process is much quicker in America, American end up paying the price on the back end with interest because of decisions made without laying the proper groundwork:


The Japanese also indicated that they took a longer time period to complete the strategic 
decision making process. Whereas the American and Chinese interviewees stated that they commonly  took “days” and sometimes “weeks” to make big decisions, “weeks” and “months” were common 
answers for the Japanese. Extra time was needed to reach a consensus. Although Japanese decision 
making is rather slow and deliberate, it “paid off” by enabling fast and smooth implementation. 
Remarkably, the American and Chinese business leaders admitted that many of their decisions over 
the last 6 months had faced resistance, and could not be implemented as smoothly as they had hoped.

In my experience, American often resort to brainstorming when it is one of the poorest forms of decision making:

New Yorker - GROUPTHINK, The brainstorming myth

The first empirical test of Osborn’s brainstorming technique was performed at Yale University, in 1958. Forty-eight male undergraduates were divided into twelve groups and given a series of creative puzzles. The groups were instructed to follow Osborn’s guidelines. As a control sample, the scientists gave the same puzzles to forty-eight students working by themselves. The results were a sobering refutation of Osborn. The solo students came up with roughly twice as many solutions as the brainstorming groups, and a panel of judges deemed their solutions more “feasible” and “effective.” Brainstorming didn’t unleash the potential of the group, but rather made each individual less creative. Although the findings did nothing to hurt brainstorming’s popularity, numerous follow-up studies have come to the same conclusion. Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, has summarized the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.

In fact, making good decisions is more difficult than one would think:

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