I took a year off in college to go work and study in Japan and went back again in grad school for an internship with Fuji-Xerox (who had some of the very first graphical user interface workstations … remember it all came out of Xerox PARC). While living and working in Japan, I learned a consensus-building technique called “nemawashi” – which translates literally into “root-binding.” It involves behind-the-scenes consensus building and feedback processes to help secure the acceptance of ideas in an organization.
Some might mistakenly see nemawashi as office-politicking. It is not. I used to use it all the time with the teams I managed, as a way to hone ideas and build consensus and acceptance for ideas.
Nemawashi is a great example of the seeming paradox: sometimes, you have to go slow in order to go fast.
More on Nemawashig: http://www.japanintercultural.com/en/blogs/default.aspx?blogid=90
The key point of the nemawashi encounter is to explain the plan or proposal or idea that you are promoting, and getting the reaction of the person(s) you are doing nemawashi with. Do they completely hate it? Like some parts and not others? Do they have specific suggestions for improving it, or improving the chances that it will be accepted?
Based on the feedback from your nemawashi meeting, you’ll want to refine your course of action. If an important person is showing strong resistance, you may want to abandon the idea or give it a complete reworking. You may have gotten other ideas for polishing the concept, or even suggestions for others to do nemawashi with. After an iterative process of successive nemawashi meetings and refinements to your plan, you’ll either have something sure to succeed, or will understand why your idea is unlikely to be approved.
Here’s another short description of nemawashi, from an older, but really good book I read while living in Japan: