Pieces to a puzzle…
A Western client recently explained that a huge challenge within their company was engaging the Koreans teams in the U.S. in discussions about complex situations and long-term planning. Specifically, there was little joint discourse related to potential trade-offs and risks in projects assigned to the local subsidiary. The Western team was consulted only to validate pre-conceived ideas or to implement directives from Korea. In most Korean companies leadership determines direction and the paths to resolving major issues. In turn, the working team's role is to focus on producing immediate results.
Contemplating this challenge, particularly within a narrow and myopic workplace approach, one can draw an analogy to jigsaw puzzle building. The pieces to a puzzle have many sides but only some are visible. What is required is to look diligently at all possible options.
As a Korean colleague once pointed out, their society beginning with grade school does not promote reflective thinking. Reflective thinking does not produce immediate effects. More so, in contrast with the Korean workplace’s collective thought process, reflective thinking stems from an individual’s core consciousness.
Reflective thinking requires not only acquiring knowledge, but also calling upon one's own experience and evaluative skills and admitting personal bias. The result is a broader perspective and a better view of the bigger picture
Often as a consequence of this myopic analysis, more problems may occur. Without working through a robust analysis of a problem from multiple angles and considering potential repercussions a solid evaluation can never arise.
All this said, by allowing one to think outside the box through a reflective and conscious lens, the time invested in analysis will lead to effective solutions.
Part 2 of this chapter will provide hints to engage Korean teams in a more reflective approach, as well as a strategy to work effectively within a workplace with two divergent approaches—Korean and Western.