If it does not fit…

As Japan prepares to switch to a jury system, the government has been running mock trials to expose people to the idea. There’s a big cultural challenge, though.

“I think there is also the matter of how much he has repented,” one of the judges said. “Has he genuinely, deeply repented, or has the defendant repented in his own way? What’s the degree? I mean, some could even say that he hasn’t repented at all.”

Hoping for some response, the judge waited 14 seconds, then said, “What does everybody think?”

Nine seconds passed. “Doesn’t anyone have any opinions?”

After six more seconds, one woman questioned whether repentance should lead to a reduced sentence. “The way the defendant expresses himself and such, it could be viewed as someone who’s not good at it,” she said. “So there’s no way for us to know what is the degree of repentance from how he has repented in his own way.”

I’m reminded of our work with consumers in Japan; we got a lot of warning from people about what kind of answers the Japanese wouldn’t give us. I was somewhat nervous that things would tank entirely, but in fact, an open-ended conversational approach (with lots of follow up) worked out very well. The two situations (trials and design research sessions) are completely different; we didn’t represent the state, for one thing! Still, there’s a cultural layer to this story that many will no doubt recognize.


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