HomeDissertation:The ASICA Model and the Coming Hospitality-Powered Renaissance

The ASICA Model and the Coming Hospitality-Powered Renaissance

4.The Breakdown in Hospitality due to the Spread of Globalism and Issues on the Horizon

We must ask ourselves why a people who naturally acquired the traits of hospitality, and worked to be of service in everyday life and the society around them (an attribute rare worldwide as well), have chosen to cast aside such hospitality in the true sense of the word. I believe that the answer to this piercing query lies in the rise of individualism and the shift toward globalization.

The wave of respect for the individual arrived in Japan from the United States roughly during the decade spanning the latter half of the 1950s to the first half of the 1960s. Interestingly enough, it was transmitted primarily through the mode of television drama. This influx prompted a major retooling in the attitudes of the Japanese people, who had traditionally stressed the value of organizations with the family at the core. The move to raise the importance of individual values over those of the organization was admittedly a trend that characterized this particular era. The problem, however, lurked in how this inclination served to simultaneously dilute the form of hospitality that had traditionally existed as the backbone of Japan’s organizations.

With the onslaught of individualism, hospitality, an element arguably indispensable for the preservation of organizations, was logically treated as a nuisance. I attribute this development to the failure by both individuals and organizations to realize that hospitality was a key component in the mechanism of upholding constructive relations with others. This expanding trend did not halt with individuals but also grew increasingly conspicuous in communities, companies, and other arenas as well. With so-called communal awareness weakening in the fabric of society itself, a tendency emerged among companies to attach greater emphasis to their own development and progress than to relations with society or other firms. Amid such an environment, the prospects for the notion of hospitality to remain deeply rooted were rendered dim at best.

This was compounded by the rise of a loud chorus calling for globalization―a phenomenon that arrived on Japanese shores as if to help people break out of the malaise that descended on the country after the collapse of the infamous bubble economy at the start of the 1990s. In addition to a launching of overseas business sites, a move to seek viable markets overseas, and other budding trends, this globalization triggered yet another critical paradigm. This concerned the matter of “numbers” (suji in Japanese). Simply stated, as symbols capable of being readily shared between countries and peoples with different languages and cultures, numerical values provided an all too handy option.

About 10 years ago, the expression “KY” (kuki o yomenai) became popular in Japan. This refers to persons judged incapable of reading (yomenai) the air or atmosphere (kuki) ―paraphrased, the inability to “read between the lines.” As an offshoot stemming from this buzzword, the phrase “SY” (the inability to read and fathom suji, or numbers) was coined as a means of deriding those weak when it came to such computations. There was much ballyhoo about the importance of numbers in the arena of corporate management, with a literal deluge of mathematical formulas coming to be applied at production frontlines, sales and marketing, and ultimately even in personnel divisions.

Granted, a firm grasp of numerical figures renders it easier to monitor production efficiency, sales quotas, and other statistical benchmarks. On the other hand, though, excessive devotion to numbers as a categorical imperative gradually encroached upon areas essentially impossible to articulate in numbers from the very start.

The belief in performance-based results, the effects of which have come to be progressively more questioned of late, functioned to forcibly transform employee motivation and vision into statistics. Under this approach, the targets of evaluation came to be symbols (benchmarks) that effectively deviated from the essential meaning of such worker traits. As a result, stated targets such as “Creating spirited workplaces” were compulsorily transformed into numerical yardsticks. For example, laughable cases emerged of swearing by standards such as the “number of times section members visit sports gyms” as supposedly feasible gauges.

The same type of trend appeared in marketing, advertising, and other fields as well, with cost per mille (CPM), gross rating points (GRP), and similar benchmarks adopted. At first glance they appeared to be rational figures, but in reality such scales amount to little more than the numerically based grasp of efficiency, cost, and other parameters, while failing to elucidate so-called “audience mentality” (which deserves to be stressed as the most critical factor in the advertising realm). These indicators did little or nothing to convey the true essence of advertising and in fact amounted to little more than numbers outlining the economic logic of projects in advertising and other fields.

When this trend is followed with the use of key performance indicators (KPI), key goal indicators (KGI), and other tracking means, the process moves into an increasingly cold and impersonal dimension far removed from any essential vision. Before realizing it, corporate operations can end up pursuing the statistics themselves, with little if any ties to the original ideals. It can also be pointed out that this stance offers the convenient, albeit erroneous, belief that reaching such numerical targets corresponds with the genuine achievement of goals.

In marketing, advertising, and other domains directly involved with “people,” the component of “human sentiment,” an area impossible to convey through numerical values alone, exerts a major impact. In reality, however, when useless strategies in which numbers ignore the area of “sentiment” and take on a life of their own grow rampant, the result can be an ever-increasing failure to produce the sought-after results. For a similar reason, in the medical field mental health, which deals with the human mind, is lagging compared with digestive and circulatory diagnosis, in which organ response can be measured in figures.

Hospitality itself is rich in vague elements impossible to grasp through numbers. Consequently, hospitality may be described as a benchmark that fails to lend itself to the era of numerical targets as the categorical imperative―a trend that has emerged as a symbol of globalism. Further troubling is the inclination, surfacing with the escalating penchant not to feel satisfied unless everything under the sun is transformed into numbers, to personally avoid anything ambiguous on a largely unconscious basis. Amid the rise of today’s digitized thought patterns, which are naturally characterized by ever-increasing respect for numbers, there is little room for hospitality measured by any vague barometer. From here on as well, therefore, I fear we can expect to see the rampant spread of a simplistically symbolized form of hospitality presented as mere written words.

The fact that there is value in such ambiguity, however, may be gleaned from the esteem also embraced by Westerners for what I would describe as the rather “languid sensations” inherent in the chants from Noh drama, dramatic recitations accompanied by the samisen (a three-stringed banjo-like instrument often associated with puppet theater), ceremonial court music, and other keenly Japanese art forms (as opposed to Western music and its 12-tone equal-tempered scale). As such, initiatives steeped in vagueness can also be viewed as being of profound interest in advertising, a field that by its very nature targets “people.” The reversion to analog from digital, therefore, is a transition demanded in the world of advertising with its focus on the human element. In that sense, the escape from numerical figures can be seen as the first valid step in coming to grips with what hospitality is truly all about.

Like before, however, I am concerned that, in the sales sector for example, setting targets to “stress the importance of hospitality” could result in the serious setting of ludicrous goals such as “number of customer calls” as supposedly doable benchmarks. I personally refer to people adopting such action by the sarcastic acronym of “SSY” (suji shika yomenai hito), which translates as “people capable of reading numbers only.”

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