It was a warm afternoon under strong sunshine in Seoul where KIT members from Taiwan and Indonesia gathered at the Centermark Hotel just the neighborhood of Insa-dong waiting for an arranged bus to go for KAIST University. Some members arranged the first face-to-face meeting with their teams, consisting of members from Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan, before the program would officially start while some planned to firstly meet all members at KAIST. Each team was consisted of two members from each country. Surely, this was the first challenge on how we could manage this cross-cultural team and go for the same target together in the incoming one full week. Making this consulting experience more colorful, the organizer planned to have two teams competing for the same projects. This year we had three projects from Samsung, CJ CGV and Fubon Hyundai, which are all big local companies in Korea, for 36 members (6 members for each team, and 2 teams for each project). The projects themselves were very challenged and all companies’ expectations were high.
Right after arriving at KAIST, Prof. Betty Chung and all KAIST’s members warmly welcomed us to the main lecture hall and the meeting area, where everyone started introducing themselves to new friends spreading out delighted and cheerful atmosphere to every corner.
Then Jae Choi, Executive Vice President of Doosan Corporation and a former Partner at McKinsey & Company, started his special lecture on Design Thinking, one of his great series of lectures during the program including McKinsey’s 7-Steps to Problem Solving lecture given during April before we came to Seoul.
We finally ended up the first day with fun by exchanging our gifts from different countries.
Second day started with team project work in the morning. All teams were required to deliver presentations of their projects to let professors catch up with their progresses and give advices on how they should proceed. It was the first time that teamwork was fully tested as all of team’s members gathered at the same place to work toward the deadline. Conflict was unavoidable but it was really depended on each team for how the conflict was managed.
On the third day, every teams arranged company visits. While Fubon Hyundai project teams had an intensive full-day meeting with several managers inside the company, Samsung and CJ CGV project teams seemed to be more relaxed. CJ CGV project teams went to CGV entertaining complex and got tickets for newly released Spider man movie to experience the theater from the user point of view. Samsung project teams went to Samsung D’light showroom in Gangnam to see Samsung’s future concept of lifestyle and its new technology.
In real practice, the problem statement or the objective of the project may not be so clear, we need to clarify and confirm it with the RIGHT person who possesses DECISION power. This ambiguity was also happened to us. It made the project more difficult and we had to work very hard. From different point of view, it was an invaluable experience.
The fourth day started with GlobeSmart and cross-culture management lecture by Prof. Betty Chung in the morning. It was another chance to let all participants understand their team members better after passing halfway of the study trip.
Afternoon was filled with fun from cultural experiences. We went to MBC World, South Korea’s first broadcasting theme park, to experience the most popular Korean cultures, which include K-dramas and K-pop.
It was the day before final presentation. Everyone stayed focusing on their projects aiming to deliver to their customers the best outputs. All teams worked very hard. Professors walked in and out the meeting rooms all day to give advices and confirm that all team were on the right tracks. Interestingly, all team started their works at 9 AM and ended around the same time at 2 AM of the next day. It was exceptional experience of midnight work at KAIST. And it became more special when one or two of us experienced some mysterious experience during midnight (... may be another joke).
Finally, it was the time to meet our customers and deliver our outputs. The main meeting hall was filled with stressful atmosphere at the very beginning and it became more relaxed when the first presentation had been started.
Samsung and Fubon Hyundai representatives were with us at the main meeting hall. Stephan Dold, Samsung representative, also gave us a special workshop on managing different interests among multiple stakeholders under constraints.
At the end of the day, though there were winners and losers as customers’ decisions were made, the most valuable thing was not a reward or the word “winner”, but it was OUR FRIENDSHIP, LEARNING EXPERIENCES FROM FAILURE and REAL LESSON ON CROSS-CULTURE MANAGEMENT which merited all of our efforts.
Finally, as it was always reminded during the study trip, don’t forget to “PUT YOURSELF IN INCONVENIENT SITUATION and FIND OUT HOW TO BE CONVENIENT IN THAT SITUATION”. It was a WONDERFUL trip in Seoul City. SEE YOU AGAIN!!!