Last week I had the privilege of attending the 15th Annual World Knowledge Forum in Seoul, South Korea as both a panel moderator and speaker. And this Forum attracted an impressive collection of politicians, academics, business leaders and entrepreneurs. The keynote speakers were the President of South Korean, Madam Park Geun-hye, and former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy.
My speech to about 200 participants of the Forum was titled: The Importance of Corporate Culture in Asia’s Global Business Expansion. However, the majority of the forum panel topics and presentations focused on the uncertainties of the Asian economy and the Asian political arena as key drivers of the current slow growth of the region.
What was most interesting to me, however, is that while my topic was the only one specifically focused on corporate culture, at nearly every panel discussion or speech I attended, issues of corporate culture and national culture came up repeatedly in the discussions! The most frequent culture topic centered around the traditional Korean corporate culture of hierarchy, loyalty and top-down decision-making and whether this set of corporate behaviours was still a benefit in a more globally competitive world. Is the Korean culture of efficiency and low-cost still a competitive advantage? Should Korea shift to more of a Creative Economy, given that China is now the world low-cost producer and technological innovations seem to be the driver of modern business growth?
The panel discussion I moderated dealt with the topic of how Korea could build a more creative and innovative economy. We had a very engaging discussion on this topic due to the expertise and diversity of the four panelists: Professor Andrew McAfee from MIT, Ben Casnocha, an entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, Yigal Erlich, the founding father of the Israeli Venture Capital industry, and Ryu Jung-hee, CEO of Future Play and serial Korean Entrepreneur.
What became apparent was the many fundamental strengths of the Korean economy and society, including government support, education for all, technological infrastructure, work ethic and many others. All the panelists agreed that with shifts in certain government policies to encourage start-ups and entrepreneurs, the Korean economic miracle to the past 50 years could successfully be refocused on innovation and creativity for the next 50 years.
If you are interested, here is a synopsis of the panelists key points.
The World Knowledge Forum was a stimulating gathering of bright minds and business experience and the over 3000 participants who attended certainly came away with food for thought and tool for improvement.
John R Childress
Senior Advisor on Corporate Culture, Leadership and Strategy Execution
Author of LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid