Understanding Japanese

Getting confused while speaking, taking back what you said, bouncing back and forth by changing words... These are the common traits of people who are really trying to express what they think. People who speak out their opinion smoothly like a flowing river are undoubtly voicing someone else's opinion. The tragedy of communicating with these people is that they're determined to stick with their opinion. It is non-negotiable so cannot be resolved though communication. If you cannot (or are not willing) to change your mind, it is because the opinion itself did not come out of you.
-Tatsuru Uchida
When I was in business school in US, I remember doing this small exercise of pairing up and facing with one of my classmates and see how long we can keep our mounths shut. When I first heard this exercise, I thought it was a joke. I couldn't even understand the meaning of this exercise.

Find your own “Why”

When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you.
–Simon Sinek
“Do you compare yourself with other people to see who is inferior and superior?” This was a question asked to me the other day when I attended a seminar called “Management of emotion” held by one of my friends. We were discussing about “contempt and insult”, which is one of the four factors that hamper smooth communication. “I think I do.” I answered and felt a little embarrassed.
Having been born during the second baby-boom in Japan, everything was about competition. I’d always feared that once I stopped competing, I’m out. In fact, even at the age of 37, I still have a habit of saying “Oh-huh, what’s next?” every time I finish something rather than saying “Phew, I deserve a break.”

Art & Communication

When you see in a special way in which experienced artists see, then you can draw.
--Betty Edwards

After getting an "F" in art at 8th grade, I've always avoided art. Getting an "F" was like told "you f*ck at 'art' and you should never even mention the term ever again!"
But what I experienced a couple of months ago totally blew me off. It changed my perceptions of the way I see art and the way now I see the world.
First, I would like you to see my picture of my "artistic" right hand I drew the other day. Yes, I can hear you! "What the hell? What's that mummy hand doing here? You really deserve an 'F'." But I tell you. A miracle happens the next day...
Before the "miracle," the quote above is from the book "Drawing from the right side of the brain" written by Betty Edwards.

Business Model Generation

"Whereas a conventional artist starts painting a canvas knowing what she wants to paint, and holds to her original intention until the work is finished, an original artist (with equal skills) holds a deeply but undefined goal in mind, keeps modifying the picture in response to the unexpected colors and shapes emerging on the canvas, and ends up with a finished work that probably will not resemble anything she started out with."
-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Two years ago, I was asked by another training company to facilitate a 2 hour workshop (this was done in Japanese), extracting new business ideas from its client (corporate) employees. At that time, I was asked to use Mindmap(R) as a tool and I think it went fairly well. But more than that, I found myself enjoying doing this. Ever since that day, I've been thinking of ways that I can stage an atmosphere where creative ideas just keep flowing in.

The worth of your own idea

"If I (or we) didn't invent it, then it's not worth much."
--Dan Ariely

I am currently reading this very interesting book called the upside of irrationality by Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University. His previous book, Predictably Irrational, one of my favorite books, gives many stories about how people act irrationally in certain situations and how smart corporations or individuals take advantage and makes money off of these irrational behaviors.
Some of the stories in this book really amazed me and I even made a couple of teaching materials out of them. The previous book focused on the more negative side of irrationality but this new book focuses on the positive side: knowing that we do react irrationally to certain situations, the way to use these positively.

One risk one day

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."
-Ken Robinson, TED Conference
Ever since I saw the video of Ken Robinson speaking at TED (I've embedded the video at the end of this blog article), I wondered myself "How I can be original?", "How can I be more creative."
Over the months I read over a dozen books anything related to creativity. I found the following three books particularly interesting:

Are you creative?

When asked whether you are creative or not, I believe 90% will say "no." I have extreme interest in creativity, especially how to extract creativity out of normal people just like you and me.
I began thinking about this after being asked to facilitate a two hour workshop, a workshop extracting new business ideas from its Japanese employees, here in Tokyo. This was a little over a year ago and was done in Japanese. At that time, I used mindmap(R) and it went OK (I would rate my performance 6 in a 1-10 scale), but since then, I began thinking:
"How could have I done differently to extract more radical ideas and get the creative juice flowing?"and the value, if done successfully, it can create to Japanese corporations who are struggling to compete in this complex global business environment.

Common Sense vs Stupidity

"What does 'man-shou' mean?"

If you were Japanese, this is a very embarrassing question to ask. The word "man-shou" means "hospital beds are all occupied" and a word a normal Japanese should know. Here's how my friend reacted when I visited her at the hospital:
"You don't know the word 'man-shou'? Well, I guess you aren't Japanese after all..."
Though I hate people saying this to me, this happens to me a lot. Maybe because I've been raised in the US till the age of 12 (missing the entire Japanese elementary education), but I ask questions without thinking too much. This is a big taboo in Japan. There are things that you must know whether it's the meaning of a word or simply culture/manner related issue, which I call Japanese "common sense."

My Empiphany

I have been writing a blog in Japanese for four years now, mainly writing about why so many Japanese businesspeople have trouble using English as a communication tool.

My epiphany came one day when I was listening to a conversation between one of students and teachers. Oh, before telling this story, I need to explain what I do. I run a private English conversation school which all lessons are conducted over skype, kind of a distance learning school. So normally, I don't get to hear the actual lessons.
For the past years, the types of lessons conducted were mainly asking teachers to find an interesting article based on the student background, send it to him/her beforehand, and talk about the topic during the lesson which lasted for about 30 minutes.


Who am I?
Global Talent Development and Communication Training Specialist
President and CEO of MANABI Limited, a global talent development firm, Masafumi Otsuka has been providing global leadership and communication training to customers ranging from large multinationals to Silicon Valley venture companies for more than fifteen years. Having led more than fifty projects involving people from over twenty countries, Mr. Otsuka specializes in training global team members to communicate and collaborate effectively.
Born in Japan in 1972, Mr. Otsuka spent his formative childhood years in Los Angeles, returning to Tokyo when he was twelve. He graduated from Keio University and was employed at Tokai Bank (currently Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.). After leaving Tokai, he returned to the U.S. to earn his MBA at the University of Virginia - Darden Graduate School. Working with international companies, managing global projects and having been educated in two dramatically different environments, Mr. Otsuka is acutely aware that effective communication requires much more than speaking a common language.
BA, Keio University (1995); MBA, University of Virginia (2002).
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What is this blog about?
This blog is about how I view globalization: how it’s changing the way we communicate, we collaborate, and we live.