The best explanation of Japanese risk aversion I ever heard came from my old department manager back when I worked at Fujitsu. He was fond of saying:
“In both America and Japan promotion is based on the point system. Whoever has the most points gets promoted. The difference, however, is that in America you start at zero and earn points for doing things right. In Japan you start at zero and lose points for making mistakes.”
I spent a week attending a series of startup events in several Japanese cities and was frustrated by the amount of time people spend telling each other stories and making excuses. I head stories that explained why, because of its history, a certain city is particularly good (or bad) for start-ups. And far too many stories about how today’s challenges are the inevitable result of some ancient aspect of national or local character.
I understand that many people are uncomfortable discussing the details of real problems, and in most cases there are no obvious solutions. I can’t even say that these stories are wrong, because most of the time there is no way to test them one way of the other.
The problem is that the stories we tell each other about about our problems give us an excuse to avoid talking about practical solutions. They give us an excuse to do nothing.
Stories are simple and comforting, but they are a waste of time.
Stories don’t solve problems.