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.
Seoul LP Bars, the 60s and Dylan.
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.
Until next time…
Schedule a chat? http://www.meetme.so/southerton