Corporate Communications: A Comparison of Japanese and American Practices

Corporate Communications: A Comparison of Japanese and American Practices

Corporate Communications: A Comparison of Japanese and American Practices

Corporate Communications: A Comparison of Japanese and American Practices


William V. Ruch examines and compares corporate communications systems in the United States and Japan to discover what each can learn from the other. The author demonstrates that business organization in each country is highly reflective of the overall culture. In American corporations, communication is intended to transmit information rapidly; it is direct, efficient, and invites confrontation. Japanese corporate communciation also transmits information, but adds an element of emotional massage. In both countries business communcation is characterized by direction: American companies have strong downward systems; Japanese companies have strong upward systems. Most channels of communication used in American firms are also used in Japan, but some Japanese techniques could not and should not be used in the United States. Ruch argues that American and Japanese corporations cannot learn a great deal from one another. In fact, the only thing that Americans should learn is the value of a strong system of upward communication. The Japanese should learn that they need a faster system of decision making than the ringi system currently in use.


The subject of this book is corporate communication as it is practiced in Japan and America. But in Japan more so than any other country of the world it is impossible to discuss communicating without first examining the Japanese culture and the history of that culture.

During my two-year teaching assignment in Japan, I was enthralled with what I saw going on around me. Where else would you see ancient festivals stop traffic as they proceeded, sometimes solemnly and sometimes raucously, through crowded streets? Once when I was on a panel at Ehime University, I was asked why American media concentrated on the ancient parts of Japan rather than on the modern aspects. My answer was that that was what Americans were interested in--remnants of the past which influence the present. There's much of that in Japan, some of it discussed here.

For the discussion of American corporate communication, I rely heavily on two sources: publications of American companies themselves and publications of professional business communication organizations. In a survey of Fortune 500 corporations in 1980, I requested copies of company publications for use in my classes at San Diego State University. Many companies complied and continue to mail the materials each month. These publications were useful in this study for three reasons: 1. they are the best source available for the subjects quoted from them; 2. they show the concerns of American managers today, since the publications are considered to speak in behalf of management; and 3. they demonstrate the excellent quality of writing in company publications today. Consequently, long quotes from them are included throughout this book.

Another important source of information for this book was the In ternational Association of Business Communicators . . .

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