is a central idea in Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese culture. Its meaning is to acknowledge your own mistake and to pledge improvement. (Similar to the German proverb "Selbsterkenntnis ist der erste Schritt zur Besserung" where the closest translation would be "Self-awareness is the first step to improvement").

An example would be Japanese politicians involved in corruption. They appear in public and apologize, then disappear from politics for a few years. After some time they resume their career because it is thought they learned their lesson.

In Japanese companies it's common practice that a manager expects hansei from his subordinates in case of mistakes. The manager takes the blame in public, whereas the department works on solving the problem.

Hansei also means greeting success with modesty and humility. To stop hansei means to stop learning. With hansei one never becomes so convinced of one's own superiority that there is no more room or need for further improvement.
The concept of hansei is probably one of the greatest differentiators between American and Japanese culture. In the hansei process, the emphasis is on what went wrong and on creating clear plans for ensuring that it does not reoccur – and this is done constantly and consistently. At Toyota, even if you do a project successfully, there is still a hansei-kai (reflection meeting) to review what went wrong. If a manager or engineer claims that there were not any problems with the project, they will be reminded that “no problem is a problem” – in other words, you haven’t objectively and critically evaluated the project to find opportunities for improvement. No problems indicate that you did not stretch to meet (or exceed) your expected capacity. Summary at Superfactory
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