Decision Making the Japanese Way

Globalism is opening new doors of opportunity around the world, and creating new challenges. One challenge of the new global market is understanding how various cultures around the world approach decision making.

Decision making is influenced by many factors: how one understands and perceives information, the values of the decision maker, and the context from which a decision is made (Rowe & Boulgarides, 1983). The values of an individual and their cognitive perception are enormously important to understand if one desires to understand how they make decisions (Martinsons & Davison, 2007). Values are integral and developed through an individual’s life teachings and experiences (Kasser, Koestner, and Lekes, 2002). Most importantly are the values developed from an individual’s national background (Hofstede, 1984).

Japan is a close ally of the US and organizational relations heavily overlap, but decision making between the two countries is vastly different. The Japanese think in holistic terms contextually while Americans focus on the foreground of a decision and specific details (Nisbett, 2004). The Japanese are very collaborative by nature, and so decision making among the Japanese involve a high number of people (Martinsons & Davison, 2007). This collaborative approach to decision making does have a tendency to slow things down a great deal and decision are often made over the course of weeks and months (Martinsons & Davison, 2007). The attitude regarding the amount of time used to make decisions is attributed to the need to involve all who need to be involved in the decision making process, allowing for consensus before a decision is made (Martinsons & Davison, 2007). Though the decision making process may take a long period of time, it increases the speed and ease decisions are implemented (Martinsons & Davison, 2007).

What can Americans learn from the Japanese approach to decision making?


Hofstede, G. H. (1984). Culture’s consequences: international differences in work-related values (Abridged ed). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

Kasser, T., Koestner, R., & Lekes, N. (2002). Early Family Experiences and Adult Values: A 26-Year, Prospective Longitudinal Study. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(6), 826–835.

Martinsons, M. G., & Davison, R. M. (2007). Strategic decision making and support systems: Comparing American, Japanese and Chinese management. Decision Support Systems, 43(1), 284–300.

Nisbett, R. E. (2004). The geography of thought: how Asians and Westerners think differently … and why (Nachdr.). New York: Free Press.

Rowe, A. J., & Boulgarides, J. D. (1983). Decision Styles — A Perspective. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 4(4), 3–9.

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