What can Japan’s world cup cleanliness can teach us about cultural buy-in?
Aside from the football, the biggest world cup headlines last week were about the Japanese national team and their fans’ cleanliness. The same thing happened at their first World Cup in 1998 in France.
Japanese fans have been distributing blue bags to everyone who sits in the Japan fan seats. When their team succeeds, they can wave their blue colour in celebration but after the game (win, draw or loss) they use the bags to tidy and clean the stadium. Even after their dramatic 2-1 win over Germany, their elation was put on pause as they cleaned the stands before leaving.
“We’re taught that leaving things cleaner than the way you found it is ‘atarimae’ which means ‘natural’ or ‘obvious’. And that we should always express gratitude."
As if to reinforce this, the players themselves have been personally cleaning the changing rooms after a match and leaving thank you cards!
So how does the whole country of Japan gain absolute buy-in to this strong cultural belief in cleanliness? And how can we relate that to getting cultural buy-in within an organisation?
1.    They are taught from a young age to leave a place cleaner than it was before.
(Make standards clear from the absolute start of an employee joining your company).
2.    There are no rubbish bins on the street, so people take it home. Likewise, there are no cleaners at school, so young pupils do some of the clean-up work themselves.
 (Remove excuses and give responsibility).
3.    People regularly get together for ‘neighbourhood clean ups’ to tackle the wider area.
(Reinforce the power of teamwork)

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