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Back from Japan, a little jet-lagged and a lot inspired

I didn’t think to ask anyone how jet-lag would affect me upon returning from Japan….Finally two weeks after my trip, I felt normal again. FYI – Melatonin was not helpful to me – it actually made me feel awful. I don’t recommend it, but my colleague traveling with me loved its effects! Traveling for 3 weeks straight with back to back speaking engagements from Memphis, Dallas, Los Angeles and of course Japan, drained my energy. Although jumping back into teaching at NYU re-energized me! As I listen to and read historical reports on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor today, my emotions and perspective are mixed. I wince in horror at the root and destruction of wars and yet I have to stay hopeful that current wars will one day be settled in peaceful partnership – as the U.S. and Japan have. This brings me to describing my trip to Tokyo just 6 weeks ago. I gained such an appreciation of Japanese service culture and the country’s commitment to quality and sustainability. In addition to taking away amazing learnings from the GOLD conference, I discovered so much about the wonderful culture of Japan. For example, just some things I noticed….very rarely (if at all!) did I see a trash receptacle on the streets of Tokyo. Maybe only once (at McDonald’s) was I given a paper napkin, plastic cup or paper plate to throw away. Instead, a steaming hot towel, a ceramic cup and chopsticks were given in place of throwaway items that we in America toss out sometimes 3X a day. How much plastic and paper do Americans throw out a day? Service ah-ha moments included, genuine eye contact and helpful service from hotel staff and retail providers. When I asked directions from any store clerk, all selling stopped, the map(s) came out, a highlighter, most clerks (men and women) walked me 1/2 way to the destination or subway stop to make sure I had clearly found my way. This delightful treatment was coupled with a truely joyful reaction, even a guteral laugh sometimes when I practiced my rudimentary Japanese saying “thank you” in Japanese – arygato!” Ha, ha, isn’t she cute trying to speak our difficult language! Japan is attempting to take a long hard look at itself and the challenges and opportunities it faces. Women have not been welcomed easily if at all in the business ranks of Japanese companies. There business population and ways of doing business are aging rapidly leaving (temporary?) holes in their capacity to innovate. Japanese business has not been based in meritocracy (which is amazing, since Japan is one of the world’s top economies). Japan leads in technology and automobile design, but apparently is losing ground fast. However, I am optimistic for Japan and its people, despite having suffered such a major setback with the tsnumai and earthquake. The world NEEDS Japan to keep on contributing great concepts to better the world! We must support them in these efforts. With women’s voices in Japan, their knowledge and fresh business perspective, we will all benefit. Women in the U.S., and around the world, helped change the hotel industry for the better for all travelers. This “case study” example, could be useful as Japan contemplates seriously its need for women’s contributions to current business practices and management. Hotels today have comfortable beds (can you say Heavenly Bed? Thank you Starwood and CEO Barry Sternlicht for listening to what women wanted). Great cuisine replaced ho-hum rubber chicken and tasteless hamburgers. All sorts of creature comforts that we access today in hotels didn’t exist 20 years ago. Women were listened to and yes, were even put in charge (something like 35-50% of hotel general manager positions in the U.S. are filled by women now). Here’s to Japan and the world becoming an even better place for all to not only thrive, but to sleep safely and soundly in all our heavenly, peaceful beds. My remarks:

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