Turning Bicultural Critical Incidents into Inclusive Bicultural Identities and Organizations in US Subsidiaries in Japan

  • Clifford H. Clarke
  • Naomi Takashiro


In the context of US managers of subsidiaries in Japan, there have been numerous mistaken perceptions, errors in judgment, and failures of execution (MEF) observed in critical incidents (CI) between Japanese and Americans that resulted in financial losses from decreased productivity for the companies and damaged careers of individual managers of both cultures due to communication breakdowns in task performance.

Our purposes were to demonstrate a pathway for avoiding this result and to challenge researchers, consultants, and organizations to engage together in achieving the goals of transforming individual identity and of developing bicultural organizations.

Methods employed were a qualitative phenomenological ethnographic research approach of observation, interview, analysis, and resolution formation by paired teams of Japanese and US researchers and facilitators in navigating MEF-provoked employee CIs.

Results showed that employees in these processes were enabled (a) to reduce MEF frequency, (b) to increase productive time-on-tasks, (c) to increase satisfaction with bicultural partners, (d) to increase confidence in evolving bicultural identities, and (e) to increase commitment to working in a bicultural organization. The benefits for organizations were reductions in costs and increased productivity.

Practical implications from this study were that inclusive bicultural identity and the development of bicultural organizations were achieved by this exceptional integration of researchers and practitioners. It serves as a model for other researchers, practitioners, and organizations with common goals.

Limitations were the inadequate number of bicultural CIs to illustrate the multiplicity of learning outcomes of this CI technique (CIT). Nine other CIs were not included due to space limitations. Some limitation on expanding researcher’ roles were the result of a few client commitments of resources.

Our originality in this study was that integration of researcher and consultant roles in long-term embedded positions in bicultural business contexts uniquely demonstrated how research and development through focused exploration of work-stopping MEF-caused CIs created bicultural workforces and transforming bicultural identities among Japanese and US managers.


Mistakes Errors Failures Intercultural management development Japan-US business Bicultural identity development Critical incident technique 



We thank our clients for their commitment to resolving their intercultural organizations’ issues, our full-time associates for their compassion and excellence, and our external researchers’ inspirational support and for their published articles on our work (in italics). These research-consultants were Dean Barnlund, Harumi Befu, Kline Harrison, Todd Imahori, Mitch Hammer, Judith Martin, Michael Paige, Paul Pedersen, George Renwick, Steven Rhinesmith, and Muneo Yoshikawa. Their roles were described in Clarke (2008). Above all, we thank our God, our families, and Pata-Pata for their sustaining support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clifford H. Clarke
    • 1
  • Naomi Takashiro
    • 2
  1. 1.Affiliated Graduate FacultyUniversity of Hawai‘iMānoaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Global TourismKyoto University of Foreign StudiesUkyō-ku, KyotoJapan

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