Mr Gwak will not work with Ram-Of

Mr. Gwak is on his way to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport to catch a flight back to Seoul after his visit to Ram-Of, an Israeli start-up which develops state of the art software for the security business.Gwak came to Israel to see Ram-Of first hand; Ram-Of’s algorithms could provide a phenomenal technological advantage to Gwak’s multi- million dollar security empire.

Mr. Gwak came for a day.  In the morning, he met with Ram-Of’s President and CEO Ami Amami in the lobby of the luxurious Dan Hotel, and then, they travelled by car to the offices of Ram-Of in Neveh Tsedek, Tel Aviv’s Greenwich Village.

Gwak was very, very impressed with the team, the average engineer “shelf time” of 7 years, the phenomenal  innovation and the “lets do what it takes to get the job done” attitude which so characterise Israeli high tech. Gwak was less impressed by the organization.

Ami’s team “voted” on whether or not to “dress up” for Gwak’s visit and the vote was 50 against dressing up and 5 in favour. Folks wore shorts and sandals; many went barefoot.

Worse, Ami’s team had voted whether or not a CEO office should be built for Gwak’s visit, or whether Gwak should see that Ami sits in a cubicle like everyone else. 55 people opposed any change to “equal conditions for all” layout of the office.

After touring Ram-Of, Gwak said, “where is your office” and Ami said “I have none”

Gwak will not work with Ram-Of. In his email of explanation he said that technical innovation and product maturity must  go hand in hand with organizational maturity.


Amami is a play on words-it means plebeian.

Thanks to my friend O.R. for the idea

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Examples of face saving in the west help explain”face saving” to western executives

The concept of “face” and “face saving” does exist in Western Cultures, although it is far less prominent, salient and discernible in the business domain than it is in Asia.

When I consult executives who are about to/have just assumed a role in Asia, one of the first things I deal with is the need to understand the concept of face. Unlike many, I start with giving examples of face in the Western world.

For example-

1) Your aging father calls you in the morning and ask you, “how are you feeling, sonny boy?” The “truth” is that you are very worried about an income tax issue, and you have a severe headache. Yet you answer “fine Dad, and how are you”. You want to save your father from feeling uncomfortable.

Preventing people from feeling uncomfortable is a key aspect of face saving; the Thais call this type of face saving “kleng jai” (deferential heart).

2) Your partner asks you “how do I look in this new dress”. The “truth” is that you are very busy with other issues and clothes are not your thing. “Great, darling”, is your answer. You prefer harmony to telling her “I am not the person to ask, and this is not the right moment”.

The preference of harmony to conflict is another component of face saving.

3) You tell a visiting colleague, Igor, from Russia, “Why don’t you come by and visit next time you are in the States?” You have no intention to ever follow through on that, but you want to make Igor feel good.

Imparting a good feeling without any intent to follow through with action is another element of face saving.

4) You compete for a tender and loose. You pick up the phone, call your lost potential client, and “thank” him for giving you and chance and wish him “success”. You avoid telling “truth” because civility, not truth, serves the relationship.

Civility at all costs is another major component of face saving.

All of the above constitute face in the Western world. In Asia, the use of these behaviours is overwhelming, but there is nothing that does exist, mutatis mutandis, in the west.


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