an excerpt from my latest work in progress Korea Perspective
Chapter 1 Connected, Fluid and Conditional
Perhaps the most enlightening experiences over my career as a business consultant has been managing Korea-based projects. As a result of years of study, research and coaching I developed a cognitive understanding into the Korean mindset. That said, nothing grounds one in reality as actually dealing with situations first hand. What stands out from my Korea facing work (cognitive and real life) is the innerconnectiveness of their workplace. Author Richard Nisbett describes the concept well in The Geography of Thought:
The person participates in a set of relationships that make it possible to act and purely independent behavior is usually not possible or really even desirable.
Since all action is in concert with others, or at the very least affects others, harmony in relationships becomes a chief goal of social life.
I interpret innerconnectiveness to mean the oneness of all things. A similar term, interdependence also applies to Korean workplace. Both terms refer to the idea that all things are of a single underlying substance and reality. More so, any separation is only at the superficial level. Drilling deeper, the core is the concept of universal oneness.
I find the concept of this oneness as overarching and the foundation for values often used to describe the cross-cultural differences between Western and Eastern nations. The most relevant values to the Korean workplace are collectivism, high power distance and low risk tolerance. As for collectivism, in Korea 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. Essentially, one's identity is molded by relationships with others.
Collectivistic cultures also require that individuals fit into the group. The group’s goals and needs supersede the individual’s comfort and satisfaction. Within the collectives, the group shares responsibility and accountability, while fostering harmony, cooperation and interdependence. Independence vs. interdependence is, of course, not an either/or matter. Every society—and every individual—is a blend of both.
I also see innerconnectiveness as an outcome of Korea and East Asia’s strong rooting in Taoist, Confucian and Buddhism. Again citing Nisbett:
Confucianism blended smoothly with Taoism. In particular, the deep appreciation of the contradictions and changes in human life, and the need to see things whole, that are integral to the notion of a yin-yang universe are also part of Confucian philosophy.
In addition philosopher Donald Munro pointed out that East Asians understand themselves in
I would include the workplace in Munro’s paradigm.
As for the influence of Buddhism, Pratītyasamutpāda is commonly translated as dependent origination or dependent arising. The term is used in the Buddhist teaching and refers to one of the central concepts in the Buddhist tradition—that all things arise in dependence upon multiple causes and conditions.
The Korean workplace is a complexity of interrelations. Decisions must consider relationships and the impact to the organization. To share an example from a project in which I was engaged, a meeting concluded following a high level presentation to division heads with the leadership pleased, but deferring decisions until they internally discussed.
To the dismay of the project leads, in the days following the presentation assignments for portions of the project were distributed to a number of departments. In private the project's lead team was not pleased but accepted the mandate. There was no recourse since the parceling came from leadership. The team did not wish to create an issue despite knowing that the other teams were poorly equipped to handle the assignments. The lead team sought to maintain harmony above all—even knowing their project would suffer.
Copyright 2014 BCW