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 Pangea, 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
Schedule a chat? http://www.meetme.so/southerton
Direct Questions? Go to firstname.lastname@example.org