For a period of ten years I was fortunate and privileged to work with Japanese multinational Kao Corporation on their English-language corporate communications – a total of forty magazine projects over that time. One of the really interesting elements of the work was the insight into many not-so-public aspects of the company.

In one issue a feature was given to the idea of ‘genba-ism’, or just ‘genba’, which was an approach to problem solving that involved being on the ground (or ‘the real place’ – which is where the name ‘genba’ derives its meaning. Kao has many types of operation spread globally, with a natural concentration of manufacturing plant in and around Asia. The organisation has learned that when issues arise, there is nothing like making the effort to travel and be on the ground, to witness and experience a problem in actuality, rather than via a report or telephone calls, and to engage with the people responsible for its management. And if this means putting a team of a dozen people onto a plane in Tokyo to visit an operation in Indonesia for a few days to pay due attention to an issue, then so be it.

I find the same in my business, especially with the advent of teleconferencing and working remotely on the rise. The technology is all fantastic – or mostly it is! – but there is nothing like being on the ground with a client, supplier or partner, to properly experience their existence and come away with insights that can only be gained from real places, real people, and real situations.

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