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Open Seminar: Step Up to better Cross-cultural Understanding and More Effective Organization

- Allison Krug, Yokosuka

Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies (YCAPS) President John Bradford welcomed Leland Gaskins, author of “Step Up: Overcoming Cross-Cultural Differences between Western and Japanese Businesspeople,” to a receptive audience of YCAPS members on August 29, 2019. Mr. Gaskins’ new work synthesizes decades of experience in both Asia and the US among Fortune 500 companies seeking to understand and thrive in the Asian economy. Mr. Gaskins related his experiences, first as an English teacher in Japan, followed by a diverse range of public and private sector positions, and how they inspired his effort to compile observations into a unique work that provides a leg up on cross-cultural
understanding. His experience in product development, US-Japanese economic relations, and learning theory as well as immersion in Japanese culture and a true appreciation for its people, have informed this effort to unify two cultures into a highly productive organization leveraging the best of both worlds.

Using a narrative style, Mr. Gaskins’ work resonated with the audience, as evidenced by the questions and scenarios raised. One audience member reflected on her own experiences and how horrified she felt when an inadvertent action must have appeared very rude (running to catch the last seat on a bus in the rain when others were wait) . Another audience member noted that as she builds an engineering firm from the ground up
she is cognizant of inherent differences between Japanese and Western engineers. While common themes are very useful, such as valuing the process over the outcome, Mr. Gaskins reminded the audience that these observations—which yielded useful themes—should not be thought of as inflexible stereotypes. “These are guiding prototypes which help us understand each other,” he continued. “If we are aware of these tendencies, we can prepare for them and avoid having misunderstandings turn into potential threats to productivity.”

The pre-seminar reception on the 6 th floor of beautiful Werk Yokosuka included sushi and other food provided through YCAPS' partnership with the Japan-US Military Program (JUMP) and wings donated by Yokolicious. The event was also supported by Temple University Japan's Institute of Contemporary Southeast Asia.