A piggy bank next to a stack of coins being saved to purchase books on world economics.
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Using Japanese Values to Thrive in Global Business

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It’s easy to get caught up in doomscrolling the news as the world grapples with economic uncertainty. But anyone can be an armchair economist. It takes real dedication and know-how to compete in the complex global marketplace.

If you’re ready to master economic theory and make a real impact, it’s time to put down the smartphone and pick up a good book.

Here are the best books on economics that shaped the way GLOBIS staffers approach an increasingly globalized economic system.

First, build a solid foundation.

Japan Remodeled: How Government and Industry Are Reforming Japanese Capitalism, by Steven K. Vogel.

Even as a student of Japanese politics, I never considered myself to be economically inclined. That changed after reading Japan Remodeled: How Government and Industry Are Reforming Japanese Capitalism.

Today, a quick Google search will yield a diverse range of issues surrounding the Japanese economy. You’ll find articles covering Japan’s potential as a global financial hub or the reluctance of foreign businesses to invest in Japan. You’re also sure to find a think piece or two exploring what Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s “new capitalism” really means for Japanese business.

If you want to contribute to the conversation, you’ll need to understand the foundation of the modern Japanese economy. Japan Remodeled outlines the major changes in Japanese capitalism from the 1980s through the early 2000s, utilizing a case study method that incorporates the varieties of capitalism framework.

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The book examines the pros and cons of Japanese structural institutions like lifetime employment, government-industry ties, and the banking system as observed by Vogel and other scholars over the years. Vogel utilizes these frameworks and perspectives to explore the reformation of the Japanese economy into a more liberalized market after the rise and fall of Japan’s infamous bubble economy.

This background provides clues as to why change in Japan, compared to other countries like the US and Germany, was (and still is) a drawn-out process.

Vogel approaches the material with easy-to-digest diagrams and thoughtful insights from other experts in the field, keeping readers engaged in critical thought as they grapple with dense economic concepts.

If you want to contribute to a brighter future, you need to understand the past. As Japanese capitalism faces yet another transformation under the leadership of Prime Minister Kishida, Vogel’s work is a must read.

—Cassidy Charles, GLOBIS Staff

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Next, dive deeper.

The New Global Road Map: Enduring Strategies for Turbulent Times, by Pankaj Ghemawat

As a well-respected scholar in the field of global management, Pankaj Ghemawat is acutely aware of the business world’s rapid globalization. He challenges his readers to consider their participation in a globalized economy with critical thought.

In response to these turbulent times, he believes it’s important to avoid overreacting to the global market by implementing two core principles in your decision-making process.

  • The law of distance (or breadth)
  • The law of semi-globalization (or depth)

The law of distance warns that international business relationships are often challenging. This is not only due to geographic distance, but cultural, administrative, and economic distances as well.

The law of semi-globalization clarifies that international business, while not negligible, is still far less significant than domestic business in the grander scope of your company’s success.

When considered together, these principles make it clear that business leaders shouldn’t jump into globalization simply for globalization’s sake.

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If a company’s depth is low, then the laws of distance and semi-globalization state that it’s best to prioritize domestic business. If the company’s depth is high, then turning focus towards international business can provide new opportunities for success. But that opportunity for success will bring with it a whole slew of new challenges to contend with.

This may seem obvious, but as the book points out, it’s shockingly easy for modern business managers to lose sight of reality. For instance, a French business manager may notice McDonald’s has found success in Paris, and then feel inspired to expand internationally with their own business. But that manager is failing to consider why the hundreds of bistros that also find success in Paris do not attempt to open shop in a Taipei.

Just because one business finds success abroad does not necessarily mean yours will, too.

A realistic perspective on your company’s global standing is paramount to rational decision-making.

I highly recommend that you read this book and develop your own thoughts on the necessity of participating in the global marketplace—for better or for worse.

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The Business Reinvention of Japan: How to Make Sense of the New Japan and Why It Matters, by Ulrike Schaede

Given that Japan’s modern economy is often referred to as the “lost thirty years,” readers are likely to scratch their heads at the title of this book.

But Ulrike Schaede, a German-born professor of Japanese business at UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, claims that corporate Japan is well on its way to revival—and already producing tangible results on a global scale. To understand the catalyst behind these changes, Schaede unravels twenty years of re-emergence, including Japan’s economic relationship to the US and other Asian countries.

Japan’s new business strategy, as Schaede puts it, is an “aggregate niche strategy.” Japan has utilized this method to support the Asian supply chain with high-end tech materials and components, boasting an overwhelming global market share. Schaede also claims that this strategy will help support the ongoing digitalization of the global business world.

The Business Reinvention of Japan also explores Japan’s social, cultural, and corporate behavior patterns using the “tight-loose theory”:

“Tight cultures have strict prescriptions on the ‘right’ way to do things, and out-of-line behavior easily creates unease, awkwardness, and even confusion. In contrast, loose cultures are generally much more easygoing about variance and unpredictability. What is considered spontaneous fun in a loose culture might be perceived as confusing chaos in a tight culture.”

Under this theory, Japan is a “tight culture.” While this may sound like a contradictory statement, Schaede’s book makes a compelling argument. She explains that a controlled and systematic mindset can support the creativity and flexibility that Japan’s economy needs, rather than oppose it.

In contrast to the typical Western mindset that Japanese business culture has been slow and stagnant, Schaede paints a more positive picture. It’s quite interesting to read her positive outlook on Japan’s economic transformation and the domestic regulatory reform that has influenced these changes.

Is corporate Japan already on its way to reinvention? This book will help you form your own opinion.

—Yoichiro Kawajiri, GLOBIS staff

Then, take on the world.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the various schools of economic thought and their influence on your everyday life. But a solid understanding of economics can set you free. After all, the economic issues of today could very well lead to the wealth of nations tomorrow.

Ready to hop into the free market? Cracking open one of the best books on world economics is a great way to get started.

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