Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Japanese Circle of Truth

One of the interesting things about working in Japan, as well as most other Asian cultures, is the concept of "truth" as changeable, malleable concept.

For those of us in the West - at least those not working at CBS - the truth is a digital concept of yes/no, on/off, black/white that can be divided by a hard fast line:

In Japan, however, the concept is a little different. Imagine absolute truth as Westerners understand it as a point. Then draw a circle around that point. This Circle of Truth is the amount you can change facts, data, or any other information you want while still being "truthful":

This concept can be difficult to grasp, and even maddening, to Westerners doing business in Asia. Not only do customers and vendors use this concept, but also any local hires, subcontractors, and subsidiaries you might have working for you. For this reason any hard data you want to present to an overseas client - especially bad news - should be presented by someone flying over from the States. If you give data to one of your local people to present, there is a good chance that the data will be changed by the time your client sees it.

So when doing business in Asia, just keep this concept in mind when being presented with "facts". They are more malleable than you think.

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