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David Stafford
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Student of markets, enjoys following their course.
My book:
Around the World in Several Pieces
  • The Return Of "The 3 Goods" Of Early Japanese Business Ethics 0 comments
    Jun 28, 2012 2:50 PM

    In a TV show today, I was watching a brief history of the modernization of Japanese business culture/philosophy.

    In an interesting discussion the "3 Goods" of early Japanese business mentality were mentioned.

    Reminiscent of Confucian thought with its 6 reasons a wife can get a divorce legitimately etc, this ethical approach to business management struck me as intriguing and very modern.

    The three goods were logically, good for the business, good for the customer, and good for society. Uniting these 3 goods into one's "business model" was seen as the key to long term success and profitability. This perspective is said to have lead to the occasional overlooking of short term profits for the sake of long term profitability and longevity.

    Its interesting to think of the way this clashed with activist hedge fund investors which demanded Japanese companies split up a la Western style, and empty some of their swelling coffers in the form of dividends etc, and at times I wonder if this activism, and its sort of coercive approach(pseudo-hostile-takeover) is what hobbled the Japanese economy. For surely, this supernova, cash dumping approach to business is somewhat incongruent with a slow and steady long term profitability approach to business management, and was surely kind of disruptively revolutionary, given that the hordes of cash that were undoubtedly dispensed by these old titanic companies, had probably taken a long time to accrue little by little, like water in an aquifer.

    With modern business school ethics courses, focusing more and more on sustainable business per se, we can probably expect to see more of the three goods to appear in the none-too distant future, as norms in business culture, regardless of what Friedman would say.

    Thus in a way, perhaps the ancient "3-Goods" which were learned by the like of those who founded Toyota, and Panasonic, will once again rekindle the world's business ethic. For, as we have seen in the west, cavalier destruction of cash reserves, and its polar buddy, massive leverage, can lead to catastrophe if not managed properly.

    Thus, in a twist of irony, the Japanese, who learned so much from Statistical Approaches as taught by visiting American business engineer, perhaps saw the forest through the trees a long time ago, perhaps this is the reason that a relatively small country with limited natural resources has managed to become a major economy of a global scale.

    Thus, perhaps the 3 Goods are still the golden triangle of business ethics that they always were recognized as in Japan.

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