Tuesday, July 06, 2010

BCW Executive Commentary Mid-year 2010 Korea Report

Don Southerton

By Don Southerton, CEO Bridging Culture Worldwide
Bridging Culture Worldwide’s executive-level commentaries share a first hand insight into Korean-facing global business. BCW’s mid-year 2010 commentary provides a frank update into recent developments and trends. The report then shares some timely recommendations. 
 The Economy
Over the past three reports I’ve found it difficult not to discuss economic issues. So too, this commentary begins with the economy. Most recently fresh worries center on Europe’s debt and fear of a Double Dip recession. For Korean global companies like Samsung, Hyundai-Kia, and LG European concern is warranted. Over the past few years, they’ve all seen huge increased market share across this region. Moreover, over the past several years the firms have made huge investments in new production facilities, logistics centers, and sales organizations. 
 More upbeat, President Obama announced his plan to submit the long stalled KORUS FTA to Congress in early 2011. Concerns still surface over the imbalance in auto sales. Regardless, I feel both nations will benefit from the agreement.  
Design Mania
Surveying Korean media, it quickly became apparent that Design is a popular topic. Trendy fashion, art, furniture, architecture, and product design draws lots attention. Many see Korea as on the cutting edge of design savvy. Top firms like Samsung, LG, and Hyundai-Kia all are now seen as design driven companies. Interestingly, a decade ago these firms had dedicated themselves to quality. That goal achieved, a new generation of leadership is embracing stylish design that the consumer not only wants, but also creatively leads them to emotionally bond with the product. In fact, Korea’s top companies want global consumers with strong up-market brand loyalty.
Awareness, But The First Step
Each year I see better awareness in the importance of cross-cultural understanding—both by Korean and non-Korea leadership. That said, awareness is but the first step. At times, I feel that most leadership recognizes the importance of cross-culturalism, but stop short of actually taking action. Beyond awareness, teams and leadership need practical skills and situational coaching--results and better communications will soon follow.
My Mid-year Recommendations
 #1 In all dealings, be upbeat and forward thinking—maintain a “glass is half-full vs. half-empty” attitude. Show passion and enthusiasm.
 #2 Korean leadership looks to the global teams and its top partners for ideas. Find innovative ways to overcome the challenges. Provide “out of the box” thinking to your Korean partners and their teams. When possible, showcase new technology to overcome challenges. That said, remember that Korea is a high-risk avoidance culture—so frame your ideas in a way that minimizes risk and promotes ROI.
#3 Provide ongoing workshop and quarterly seminars to Korea facing teams and management.  As needed, support key management with coaching.  Awareness is but the first step.
 To conclude
Understand the huge stress loads within Korean based firms—pressures to endure and leapfrog ahead of the global competition. Be mindful and culturally sensitive. BCW is dedicated to providing much needed coaching, research, analysis, and strategy to you and your teams. As always, we are here to assist and support 24-7-365.

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