What shocks Japanese about Israeli business culture

I have spent hundreds and perhaps a thousand hours working with Japanese teams and Israeli teams who need to interact, generally around the introduction of new products into the Japanese market.

There are probably few cultures as different as the Israelis and the Japanese. And it would be fair to say that I could write 100 things that appear shocking to the Japanese. I have chosen the top three.

1) An Israeli firm can send a team to a customer and the Israeli team can argue amongst themselves in front of the customer. In Israeli business culture, argument is a sign of commitment! The Israelis believe that the Japanese customer will appreciate their openness, and respect the fact that no one echoes “the party line”

2) The Israelis view severe quality issues of emerging technology as part of the game. You innovate, you introduce the product, and you mop up the mess. The Japanese customer “needs to know the risks  if they buy innovative products”.

3) The Israeli communication style of very, very open, far more open than any style they have encountered. An Israeli can easily tell anyone “ you are totally wrong”, “not true” or “let me correct you”. Needless to say, this ain’t what the Japanese are used to!

Yet strangely, there are many things which are very similar in the two business cultures: very very hard work, an emphasis on commitment, more loyalty to the work place than to one’s career…..and lots of jokes about Americans.

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