You know that sinking feeling you get when you are about to be seated at a dinner party -- that flip your stomach does as you approach the table and make a sweep of the place cards, holding your breath? A bad seatmate and your evening is ruined. On a recent night, however, that stomach flip turned into a heart leap as Sir Howard Stringer, the new chairman and CEO of Sony, claimed the seat next to me. Funny and charming, he’s one of the best seatmates a gal could hope for. We began talking about his frequent trips to Japan and the ingrained cultures and traditions that drive business there.
The very next day, the New York Times ran an article about the chairman of Toyota Motor, Japan’s largest company, bucking tradition in the name of reducing global warming -- announcing that all Toyota employees are to leave their business suits and ties at home this summer in anticipation of rising temperatures. No suits = less air conditioning = less energy burned = reduced global warming gases. The Japanese government has also adopted "no necktie, no jacket" summertime policy.
It's simple, ingenious, brave, and practical. Clearly, the Bush administration could learn a few things from our friends across the Pacific. If not, they might be forced to make use of some of Japan’s face-saving techniques. This year, the debate on global warming is going to shift. The signs are everywhere in corporate America, with concerns being amplified in powerful places like General Electric, Cinergy Coal and Shell Oil.
So if a tradition-bound Japanese culture can shift with the times and embrace the idea of expanding casual Friday to five days a week, perhaps our administration, encrusted in its oil and auto culture, can shift too. A girl can dream, can't she?