Zen in the Executive Suite

On a recent trip to Japan, American Businessman Bruce Neff unwittingly broke a key cultural rule. The Data General manager abruptly chopped an order he had placed with a Japanese firm by one-third. "It was an ordinary procedure that in the U.S. would have taken 15 minutes," he recalled. But the Japanese were shocked and threatened by the unexpected cutback, and launched into negotiations with Neff that dragged on for three days.

As the Japanese invest abroad, more and more U.S. businessmen will find themselves doing deals with them. The corporate style that works for Americans at home may not go...

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