Zen and the art of carmaking

Zen and the art of carmaking

Japanese firms are known for craftsmanship. But they need showmanship, too

Jun 16th 2012 | The Economist

IN JAPAN companies are built to last. The world’s oldest firm is a Japanese builder, Kongo Gumi, which dates back to 578. More than 14 centuries later, it sticks to its core business: the upkeep of Buddhist temples in Osaka. Many Japanese firms also have founding principles that employees engrave on their hearts. Common themes include longevity, consistency and integrity. Chasing profit for its own sake is still considered grubby in Japan, like blowing your nose in public.

In this pristine world making things is considered more virtuous than selling them. This is not only a Japanese trait: in, too, hackers prefer not to mingle with mere hawkers. But in Japan engineering is revered with an almost religious passion; indeed, the idea that anything can be lovingly tinkered to perfection owes something to Zen Buddhism.  Far less attention is given to marketing. In a world of global brands this is a mistake. Japanese businesses need to master the art of storytelling, too.   [more]


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