Despite area studies in general and Japan studies specifically being under threat in global academia (See previous post), there were a record number of papers submitted to the Association of Japanese Business Studies conference in Istanbul. This seemed to be due to the attractions of the juicy and comprehensive longitudinal data on Japanese companies available from the Toyo Keizai database, enabling the kind of “frame a hypothesis or four, then test it/them by crunching numbers” approach to generating papers which can then be submitted to any relevant conference or journal going, thereby building up a respectable looking set of publications, preferably in tandem with a number of other budding academics.
There were some insights to be gained from such papers but most of them did seem to be stating the bleeding obvious, except with scary looking formulae. Measuring the impact of “national distance” on multinational enterprise development is particularly trendy at the moment (not just geographic, but institutional, political, cultural etc) but it did just add to my sense, last felt when I did my MBA (and before that the Economics component of my degree) that the trend towards quantitative analysis only serves to distance the theory/research even more from the practice. Very few of these kinds of analysis have the immediacy and practicability, the “so what” element, that would make a busy executive stop, understand and act on it.
I know this is not a new insight – last time I ranted about it to the e-learning team I was heading up I was pointed in the direction of the body of constructivist learning literature, Catherine Fosnot, Reflective Practitioner etc etc.
The irony of this is, given we were meant to be focusing on Japanese business, that it would seem from the paper by Yoshitaka Yamazaki on learning styles (and my own observations), that Japanese managers would much prefer this kind of On the Job, reflection in action way of learning to more theoretical, abstract conceptualizing. Makes me think we might want to try some different approaches with our own cross cultural communication training, and also how frustrating it is that our coaching services to Japanese executives are so hard to sell, when they could be just the thing for reflection action.
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