If you have been following my life and know me well, then you probably know that I am in love with different cultures. Learning about other cultures is just so fascinating and challenges current belief systems. Two cultures that I am currently studying are the Danish and Japanese ways of living. Japan and Denmark are very much located at their own end of the spectrum, with Japan being one of the highest context countries and Denmark one of the lowest context countries. In a higher-context culture, many things are left unsaid, letting the culture explain. Words and word choice become very important in higher-context communication since a few words can communicate a complex message very effectively to an in-group (but less effectively outside that group), while in a low-context culture, the communicator needs to be much more explicit and the value of a single word is less important. Finding the intersection between the two cultures and using it to benefit the culture that your life, can be the real secret to success. I wanted to write a post to shed light on a few words that have had an impact on the business world.
There is no direct translation, but it essentially means happiness at work. Arbejdsglæde may have stemmed from the word hygge. The noun hygge includes something nice, cozy, a safe form of everyday togetherness, equality, personal wholeness, and a spontaneous social flow. This shows how culture bleeds into other areas of life. Arbejdsglæde in the workplace means enjoying the people you work with, being aligned with your position, having intrinsic motivation, and having a great work environment. Google, Facebook, and other companies have adopted this type of envirnment and has enjoyed many benefits.
Decreased: Employee turnover, Stress & Absences
Increased: Creativity, Results & Team bonding
While Arbejdsglæde is a positive outcome from work the Japanese have an opposite word: 過労死 (karōshi) death by overwork. Speaking of Japan, I'll transition to a less depressing word that has put Japan on the map for their ways of doing business.
The word's direct translation is "good change" and to do something better. Kaizen (改善) is a daily process that is more than just simple productivity improvements. When Kaizen is done correctly, it humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work (muri 無理), and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes. Due to the fact that Japan is high context culture, they all make small sacrifices for the betterment of the group. This idea was created after WWII and has been the secret to Toyotas success. Work becomes more efficient as management makes tasks easier for the workers by making equipment easily available and targets specific areas to modify. There are no more wasteful movements as time is dedicated to small details that make the process function better as a whole. An example is how athletes work on work on small aspects of their game until they do not have any weakness. This philosophy has some parallels to the Lean Startup method in the entrepreneurship culture.
• Arbejdsglæde is more than just a bunch or randomly scattered letters, but the Danish's word and philosophy for making work a happier place while improving employee’s productivity.
• Kaizen (改善) is Japan's lean secret to making simple production tweaks into impactful changes.
• Continuing to explore different cultures and their impact on the world will not only make things more efficient, but more enjoyable.