I’ve just begun compiling feedback from the new case study. Contributions from readers, like you, show highly engagement in the study as well as many dealing with some common issues.
One that surfaced was although they have achieved much success Korean brands in their overseas operation need to adopt MORE to local norms including accepting failure and missteps. If not, and as a consequence growth will stall and be unsustainable–something of recent concern that we see occurring globally amid strong competition by rivals and changing markets.
To paraphrase one well thought out response that nailed it dead center with this profound statement. With regard to their local Korean business operations “[a] company needs to foster innovation rather than just be a fast follower.
Adding, “The challenge is with ‘Acceptance of mistakes’, which as you noted [ in the case study] is one of the foundations for American’s success. Culturally, failure [for Koreans] is not an option. Until they realize that it can serve as a foundation for success, they won’t be able to go much further.”
Again, in the next few episodes look for a more well thought out feedback, which I share on the case study.
Meanwhile, changing the topic slightly, but sharing as solutions…I’ve offered considerable content over the past several years in video format—first are a series of 5 concise videos, and second a more recent 2015 presentation—all captured in high resolution and quality audio. I strongly encourage you to view.
For the 1st five videos they run 2-3 minutes, and the last video about 26 minutes.
Over the past month I have been sharing the role of the creative class in the workplace–Korea and America. To clarify I looked at the “culture” needed to foster the Creative Mind in the workplace, and in particular recognize their values, norms, and attitudes. The new case study is the result of this study and research.
This said, I have attached a link to this new Case Study. Please take a moment to download and read. I would appreciate any feedback and comments before we offer it to a wider Korea facing distribution.
And by the way…
If you and your company would like to discuss challenges, I would be happy to chat. I’ve found each company has its own dynamics and I approach this case-by-case crafting an approach tailored to the client.
In the two previous posts we looked at the dynamics required to nurture a creative and innovative workplace. In particular, Korean work values, norms and attitude surfaced as polar opposites to the characteristics of the western creative class workplace. In turn some core change would be required if Korea aspired to develop a strong sustainable innovation-driven economy. In fact, the current South Korean president, Madame Park, Geun-hye recognized this and upon election boldly had proclaimed a “Creative Economy” as her platform for Korea’s economic growth over her 5 year term in office.
Frankly most in Korea’s private and public sector have found this high level government mandate hard to embrace—in part because the overall concept was difficult to grasp within their current society. And, as I have pointed out what drives a creative economy is creatives as well as the unique communities that align with values and sustain their lifestyles. For example over-hearing a tech startup chat in edgy Golden, Colorado coffee shop Pangaea, I quizzed the three young entrepreneurs on “why Golden?” They response was 1) lifestyle, and more specifically rock climbing 2) access to established startup and incubator hubs like Boulder and Denver, and 3) available local funding for startup, the community quite wealthy.
To give another snapshot, Biz Stone former Twitter co-founder shared in a recent weekly update on his current venture Super.me, his partner Ben Finkel’s view on their work culture
* The world is our oyster. We get to build awesome software, dream up future products, use the best technologies, and get well paid for doing it. There’s no handbook, but the challenge is part of the thrill.
* We have tons of flexibility in our work style, no micromanaging and minimal bureaucracy. Of course, we can still improve our work processes, but this is another problem we get to collaboratively improve together.
* Working with a small, creative group thinking up and building future products—that has always been my dream. Of course, the products won’t work as planned, we’ll have to adapt, redirect, and persist.
In a future Everything Korea episode, I’ll suggest some steps Korean companies need to take if they look to build a creative workforce in their domestic Korean divisions, but before I tackle that set of challenges, I would like to address the need for Korean overseas operations to be sensitive to the needs, values, and attitudes of the creatives with their local organizations. Studies show that up to 1/3 of the American workforce are now part of the creative class. The best companies recognize this trend. Sadly, firms that ignore this reality, suffer.
My big concern is that Korean companies with global operations may fail to recognize this reality, too. This reality was well captured by Authors Josh Hammond and James Morrison in their book The Stuff Americans Are Made Of.
The authors cite seven cultural forces that define Americans:
1 Insistence on choice
2 Pursuit of impossible dreams
3 Obsession with big and more
4 Impatience with time
5 Acceptance of mistakes
6 Urge to improve
7 Fixation with what’s new
I feel Korean companies need to recognize and adopt a creative culture in local markets to sustainable recruit and retain this talent — a difficult challenge even for many American companies strongly rooted in older workplace norms. Again quoting Richard Florida, “ Many companies are merely presenting a cheap, façade of the alternative [creative culture]—a Ping-Pong table, perhaps an espresso machine.”
So for starters, Korean companies that need to draw upon local creative class talent will find that locating in right community can be half the battle. This means a locale that embraces diversity and openness, with some edgy counter-culture thrown in. Interestingly, we know there is considerable synergy between the creative class workforce in these communities like San Francisco, Austin, TX and Boulder, Colorado—a huge side benefit to any firm looking to nurture their workforce.
Perhaps the greatest hurtle is ensuring that Korea workplace norms and company practices do not over-power and overtake local norms—resulting in a stifling of the very creativity the Korean company so desires… In the worst cases, top creatives will exit and those that stay make no attempt to tap their creativity.
Again this is not an easy task, and frankly one I spend considerable time as a consultant providing leadership and teams—Korean and Western– with strategy work arounds and solutions. And, I do have solutions.
More to come on this topic, in the meantime if you and your company would like to discuss, I would be happy to chat. I’ve found each company has it’s own dynamics and I approach case-by-case crafting an approach tailored to the client.
So until next time…
Oh, one more thing…. I am back in SoCal and OC two days this week. Some time still open
To recap my thoughts in previous posts, a strong Creative Class is seen as key to sustaining a forward-leaning, innovative economy. Going hand in hand with this is workplaces that embrace diversity and openness, are not opposed to self-expression, promote individual recognition for hard work as well as resulting compensation (more than a base pay) for doing what they are good at… and they work in a community offering an engaging and even edgy lifestyle.
So where do I see disconnects between South Korea and America?
For starters in America the old Fordism and Company Man model at least for the creative class has shifted. Workers were once strongly tied to the company, this relationship nicely summed up by Richard Florida, “You were a company man, identifying with the company and often moving largely in the circles created or dictated by it.” Today, creatives value their unique social identity–one able to move intact from firm to firm and well as assuming the risks and absorbing the benefits companies once backed.
In contrast, rooted in Korean norms and collectivism, Korean workers strongly identify with their company—perhaps more so within the major Groups like Samsung, Hyundai, LG, and SK, as well as those working for a high profile global brands in Korea like Nike.
These organizations tend to be highly traditional vertical (and often horizontal) corporations— top-down management hierarchically flowing workload down to teams (most often operating in silos) with the Taylorized expectancy they follow routines and norms long established. In contrast, a creative work culture dies when so regimented as Florida points out, “ like rote work in the old factory or office.” A long hour chained to cubical cranking out Point points is very different than a culture where ideas are conceptualized inside one’s head in a café over a latte or during a trail run.
All said, one could argue Korea may not be wired for fostering a sustainable creative culture.
What I do find as encouraging is many in Korea on a personal level attracted to and appreciate counter-culture. There is an ever growing segment is their society adopting a lifestyle more conducent to creativity. Much of this influence has been Koreans exposed to the global art scene, the influence of expat non-Koreans, plus Koreans embracing their own traditional artisan heritage. In some ways, this movement has taken on a rather edgy Bohemian feel… one I find very cool.
For example, Korean media reports there are a growing number of “dives with DJs and extensive collections of LPs,” many located in ultra-hip neighborhoods…. walls plastered with album covers from the likes of Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King. The interiors shrines to Bob Dylan and Neil Young and the cultural revolution of the 1960s.
One more thing,
I have a request for my friends both Korean and non-Korean expats in Korea to share their observations, especially on the emerging counter-culture.
I’ll also be pulling together some example of a budding Korean counter-culture scene and what I see as roadmap for workplaces looking to attract and groom creatives—not only for Korea, but also for their U.S. and global operations.
Outside my day-to-day support of Korean facing business and clients, I am drawn to ponder on issues and drill deep. I other words research, investigation and then providing commentary on the direction of Korean business from trends inside Korea to Korea-facing international operations.
An example of this process, several years ago I coined the term K-lobalization (Globalization with a K for Korea) as I saw the trend when Korean firms boldly promote their own unique management style and corporate culture internationally and across many markets. A recent manifestation is organization-wide, corporate-directed mandates…. from core value, vision, and management training directives to most recently how they should brand or even target specific consumers in local markets. Usually these programs are expected to be unchallenged and accepted without question by overseas teams—at times not in the best interest of the local operation.
This said, a new topic, which has my interest, was touched upon in May 11 edition of Everything Korea… there I argue a key challenge in Korean success with startups and innovation was “culture.” I would like to expand this perspective more broadly to be the “culture” needed to foster the Creative Process in general. In fact, this is the first of three commentaries on the topic.
Let me explain. What has evolved in America regarding startups, tech, and innovation is they tend to hub in cities with diversity and strong counter-cultures like Boulder, Colorado, San Francisco, Austin, TX, and NYC, although more and more scenes are emerging in Nashville, TN or here in Golden, CO…
Nuff said…Edgy Austin and Jack Kerouac
Within these communities I have witnessed an amazing synergy not only in day-to-day interactions and dialogue, but also in resources. Actually spending an hour and listening to the chats and even pitches for Angel Funding in edgy Caffe Centro on a South Park Street in San Francisco (the couple of blocks once referred as the Tech Ground Zero and where concepts like Twitter were launched and well as scores of tech companies and startups now call home) one quickly sees why locating in one of these scenes is key. In fact, showing how widespread, I frequently hear similar coffee shop launch pitches in Golden, Colorado.
Let me explain more in detail.
As academic Richard Florida points out in The Rise of the Creative Class, creatives as a group reflects a “powerful and significant shift in values, norms, and attitudes.” He clusters this attitude to be:
3) Diversity and Openness (which can translate to gender, sexual preference, race and my favorite “personal idiosyncrasies”.)
Of course those familiar with the Korean workplace and by this I don’t mean only the larger organizations but even most progressive firms, recognize there is a huge disparity from these “creative” norms.
For example, in contrast to the individualism within the creative class, in Korea we find deeply rooted collectivism where the group is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value.
In collectivistic societies, group goals take precedent over an individual’s objectives. This view does not deny the reality of the individual, but, ultimately, collectivism holds that one’s identity is determined by the group(s) with which one is affiliated.
Collectivistic cultures also require that individuals fit into the group—and “conform.”
Noting this, outside values, norms and attitude, perhaps the gap between US and Korea that also occurs is in “risk mindset.” Today the American entrepreneurs, angel investors and VC who launched Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Square and now Super continue to look for, invest and provide mentorship and guidance to what they hope will be the next success story…. In most cases they are investing resources in multiple ventures….
This said they know and accept that failure is part of the process…. As Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter, and an early investor in Square, Medium…and a bunch more) said at SXSW on his most recent work… “the failure of one venture, Jelly, led to success at a venture, Super.me ”
So getting back to Korea the real challenge is not in lack of ideas or topnotch talent, but in allowing and fostering a culture of Diversity and Openness, an acceptance of failure, and tolerating and even embracing non-conformity.
The good news…. I would not give up on Korea and a creative culture. More of my thoughts on this in the next episode of Everything Korea. I even will propose a roadmap for grooming creatives in Korea.
I was recently interviewed by Fortune.com—I often contribute to the media. They were looking into the success of Korean car brands Kia Motors and Hyundai Motor in the wake of the latest J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey (IQS). To the surprise of many, Kia ranked #2 just below premium brand Porsche and Hyundai ranked 5th, both well above longtime and formerly top ranking Japanese brands.
With much of my work over the past decade supporting Korean global business, especially Hyundai and Kia, and more so, the Korean carmaker has long been a topic of my research, study, writings and media commentary…. My answer on why the Korean brands have achieved such success is simple. Quality has been an almost singular career message by the carmaker’s chairman, Chung Mong Koo.
To share some insights…. I quote from my book Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed.
By 1999, Chung Mong Koo had assumed control of HMC in addition to his leadership role at Hyundai Precision [today known as Hyundai MOBIS]. Adding to his responsibilities, HMC had also acquired Kia Motors—an early casualty of the Asian financial crisis that ripped across the Korean economy. Having experience in the Hyundai Motor’s after-sale service early in his career, Chung Mong Koo was not without insights into the car division.
Since its founding in the mid 1970s, HMC had focused solely on growth. Indicative of Korea industry at that time, this focus was to produce as many cars as possible—as fast as possible. In turn, product quality and customer satisfaction suffered. From his experience working with consumers at Hyundai Motor’s After Sales division, Chung Mong Koo knew the damage shoddy products could bring to the Hyundai reputation, not to mention the high cost of warranty repairs.
When Chung Mong Koo began sharing his intention to turn Hyundai Motor Company into a top-five automaker, few outside the company took him seriously.
Hyundai, like many family-controlled Korean companies, was hierarchical and at times slow to change if there was a perceived risk. More significant, managers rarely cooperated with one another and division chiefs ran their operations as personal fiefdoms. It was a company of silos. “When a problem occurred, each division would blame other divisions,” says Lee, Hyun Soon, former Hyundai-Kia Motors Vice Chairman and Chief Technology Officer.
Chung Mong Koo’s first step was to replace the former top management with engineers and those with whom he had worked closely at Hyundai Precision. He formulated a strategy to challenge Toyota for quality. Extensive work with a number of top global consulting firms (e.g. J.D. Powers) and benchmarking of the world’s best automotive companies followed. He also sent teams to America to study weather, road conditions and driver habits. Quality control staff increased tenfold to 1,000 and they reported directly to him.
Employees were encouraged to offer suggestions and were rewarded. For example, one worker reported the Sonata and XG350 Grandeur sedans had differently designed spare tire covers. Sharing a common cover saved Hyundai about $100,000.00 per year.
Chung Mong Koo quickly earned a reputation for an obsession with quality. For example, several years ago a new Sonata launch in Korea was delayed for two months with 50 issues that senior management wanted addressed. Employees in the Asan factory worked feverishly to correct these items.
One was a tiny error in the size of the gap between two pieces of sheet metal near the headlight. The problem was not visible to the human eye and was narrower than 0.1 millimeter. However, numerous managers and employees worked on the problem for 25 days before it was solved.
This obsession with quality continues today with the Chairman relentlessly reinforcing the quality mandate to management and teams globally as they strive for zero defects.
All said, for my work I drill deep. I look for and then share with clients the reasons behind Korea facing business, while over time mentoring, coaching and steering teams and C-level leadership to solutions.
If these unique resources can benefit you and your company, I have blocked out some times I’m available to discuss options. Just go to http://www.meetme.so/southerton
I truly enjoy sharing the nuances of Korean business culture—whether through my books, Vodcasts like this one, in media interview and articles, or coaching those new to the Korea facing workplace.
Long part of my core business has been On-boarding. In fact, this week I have a number of engagements scheduled in Southern California with some planned for San Francisco in the next future.
On-boarding or, organizational socialization is where new employees, from C-level staff to entry-level hires, acquire necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to be effective in their job. In most cases for my work this means those employed by Korean companies, but it also includes those partners that provide services to Korean global firms.
A common false assumption taken by some is those new to the company or project “will get” the cultural nuances without considerable support. Nothing can be more mistaken.
I find the Struggles for non-Koreans can range from team members not dealing with matters feeling it may offend their Korea colleagues to being perplexed and frustrated why approval processes are so complex or why Finance appears to be the making final call in critical operational decisions. The later two situations covered extensively in my books Korea Facing and Korea Perspective. See link below.
All said, my role in On-boarding is to provide context and the reasons behind Korea facing business, while over time mentoring, coaching and steering teams and C-level leadership to solutions.
If coaching and mentoring is like something you and your company can benefit from, I have blocked out some times I’m available to discuss more. Just go to http://www.meetme.so/southerton
I was on a conference call last week when asked how best to describe my work—and do I provide consulting for CEO and C-level management—her organization’s international development committee made up of a number of CEOs.
My short answer was that a client and long friend, then a CMO for a major company best described my practice to others as Everything Korea… I also like having been introduced as “ a high power consultant” or Don is “the guru, the guy CEOs want to have their voice heard with, “ the later shared on Seoul’s eFM tbs Koreascape.
Pondering over the weekend on the question from the conference call much of what I do is provide context and a strategy to decision-makers involved in Korean facing business projects that range into the hundreds of million of Dollars.
In particular, I provide counsel and solutions based on my years working with Korean business—a good part in the international expansion into new markets and the challenges that surface and as a client once asked “ where are the landmines he needs to be aware of and avoid.”
So this gets to why I post weekly Vodcasts, frequent media commentaries, case studies as well as books on Korea facing topics. They all serve as channels to support and educate.
This said, in my consultancy each engagement needs to be approached on a case-by-case basis—no two situations identical.
Just back from Greater Nashville area and specifically the Clarksville –Montgomery Economic Growth Summit. I was honored to have been asked to speak on an elite panel about international business market entry. In particular, my contribution focused on 1) how the community and its leadership can best support Korean Hankook Tire, with construction now underway for the Korean company’s it’s 1st manufacturing plant in North America, and 2) how can the community attract other top Korean FDI manufacturers.
I like to share some comments made by my colleagues Kiyo Kojima, a top lawyer specializing in Japanese market entry and Sebastian Eich an expert of German and EU business.
For starters, Japanese, German and Korean firms approach the overseas’ operations differently. Cultural nuances impact how they look at and enter new markets.
For example, although local quality education for the expat Japanese, German or Korean dependents is important. German and Japanese families expect to return to the mother countries and their children to resume schooling. More often Korean families see value in an American education, with English language proficiency—the later a competitive workplace edge. A recent trend among Korean expats then is for father to return to Korea when the assignment ends, but the family to remain in the states until the children graduate from High School and college.
BTW A positive for Clarksville is the area has the best schools in the state, along with home to the Austin Peay State University campus.
Another factor that stood out among the many questions the panel tackled included the need for a qualified and skilled workforce, not an issue in Germany, Japan or Korea, but labor force can vary much with a country the size of American, and a determining factor on picking one region over another in the site selection process.
All said, having supported major Korean manufacturing facilities in the US and globally, i found the Clarksville—Montgomery County region of Tennessee offering much…. Not to mention just miles from Nashville.
I also see as a great site for future Foreign Direct Investment as other Korean firms consider launching US manufacturing operations. If interested, I have blocked out my availability to chat and discuss…. Just go to http://www.meetme.so/southerton
Coming off the Memorial Day Weekend Holiday here. I use holidays as a time to write, read, recharge and re-focus. This means opting out perusing Facebook and Twitter, as well as checking emails. I’m happy this year both the American holiday and Buddha’s Birthday (a legal holiday in Korea) fall together.
I was again asked what’s been on my reading list. I recommend for starters, Brian Grazer’s (the Hollywood producer and with creative partner Ron Howard founded Imagine Entertainment) new book A Curious Mind
A second book: The start-up of YOU, by Reid Hoffman, co-founder and Chairman of Linkedin
And, Hatching Twitter, by Nick Bilton
All three give some great insights into the varying aspect of American business–behind the scenes and sub-cultures.
This brings us to today’s topic—these recognizing diverse sub-cultures. To often like an iceberg what is seen on the surface only shares a potion of a business and in particular for that business model in a respective market or region.
What is truly deceptive is that on the surface business is business, and all can appear similar. Where the challenge emerges is that each business sectors can vary considerably in the West, and the three books I mention highlight just how different.
For example Brian Grazer, as a Hollywood insider and successful TV and film producer talks about expectations within filmmaking and specifically Hollywood that require special mindset— which at the core is “creating ideas.”
Building on this, the other two books look at recent trends and sub-cultures that exist within…
As the Linkedin Chairman points out that in contrast to an old model embodied by the once great Detroit, we find the entrepreneurial mojo of Silicon Valley embracing a willingness to take bold risks and accept failure, coupled with a network of alliances to work in collective action.
More revealing to inner workings, we find in Hatching Twitter that can things vary lots even across startups. Cited in the book one of the Twitter co-founders Biz Stone willingly went to a startup which would become Twitter from “unlimited free meals, free snacks, free buses to work, and a free inexhaustible everything at Google and replaced with a office where homeless people slept in stairway, the only free transportation was his two feet, and the only free food and drink was a beer after work if EV [his boss] picked up the tab.”
This said, the author notes, “ The cultural difference was incalculable. The sterile, robotic culture of Google, with its know-it –all engineers and bossy bosses, was now replaced with tattooed hackers with a do-what-you-want mentality.”
So what am I saying…
To my friends and clients in Korea, I’d share these are just several examples of the diversity in Western work culture and norms—a deep understanding required to be effective in the local market.
In contrast, although no two Korean Groups are entirely alike in their mindset and even Divisions and sister companies within a Group can vary some—workplace culture, norms and process are very relatively similar. For example, hierarchical titles, role of Finance, a team focus, a junior’s deference to seniors, pressure to take action over considerable upfront critical thinking, as well as top down oversight and decision making.
All said, I am often asked about a pet project of mine over the past year Mad For Garlic. My Korean friends and the expat community in Korea know the brand well. In short…. Mad For Garlic is known for its unique and innovative menu with garlic-specialized Italian cuisine.
I was asked to assist the team in US market entry. A rare and very smart move by the Korean team who recognized the need for local support. Our first round was getting the word out to the FSR industry. This is summed up nice in a PDF study. Link below.
As if often the best case, our original strategy to find a master developer for the US market has evolved to now finding a VC or Angel to invest in the International development of the brand. This makes considerable sense with a recent $48 MM investment by Standard Chartered Private Equity (SCPE) in the now 40 plus domestic Korea Mad For Garlic operations. This new partnership with SCPE will accelerate Mad for Garlic’s Korea expansion. Working with the Korean team we seek to accelerate the International development though a similar partnership. Questions, thoughts or an interest, please contact me directly and we’d love to discuss more.
Oh and one more thing…. I am off to Nashville, Tenn. area this week and more specifically as speaker a panel on international development held in Clarksville-Montgomery County, soon be home to a $180MM Hankook Tire plant.