Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Korea already is creative

Ask A Korean is normally engaged in, well, answering questions about Korea, but also business and industry.  Just about every time I have visited the blog, I have enjoyed it and learned something, but I haven't felt interested in visiting it often.

In a post from 4 months ago, AAK discusses whether Korean can become a nation known for creativity.  He argues that it is already a place where creative solutions are thick on the ground, but that ground is inside various factories and assembly lines so it is not as obvious as Apple's iPod.

He goes further, using the iPod as an example, and offers the USA itself as the engine for the iPod's success.
There is no question that iPod was a creative, innovative product. Its design was attractive and its user interface easy and intuitive. So, if you are old enough to remember, suppose you are back in 2001. Also suppose that the first iPod equivalent -- known as yPod -- was made by a company called Mela, based in Italy, instead of Apple based in Cupertino, California (which, in this alternate universe, would continue to only make computers.) Mela's yPod is identical to Apple's iPod -- it is small, sleek, modern and easy to use. Mela also has yTunes store, through which all of the latest Italian music will be available to be purchased and downloaded directly into yPod, just like the iTunes store in real life.
Would yPod be nearly as successful as Apple's iPod? Not a chance. But why not? Everything about yPod is the same as iPod. It took exactly the same amount of creativity to produce yPod/yTunes as to produce iPod/iTunes. Then what is the difference? The difference is plain -- far fewer people of the world care about Italian music compared to American one. The ability to conveniently download music -- iPod's greatest strength -- means significantly less if the music is not American. 

He also looks at Facebook and cyworld:
Take Facebook, for example. Facebook is definitely an innovative product. But five years before Facebook, Korea had Cyworld -- a social networking service before anyone in the English-speaking world has even heard of the term "Social Networking Services." And Cyworld became extremely popular in Korea, just like the way Facebook is now. At its peak, Cyworld had more than 17 million members, an incredible figure given that the population of Korea is around 48 million. But although Cyworld attempted to expand beyond Korea, it failed to make a global impression for one simple reason: it was optimized for Korean sensibilities and environment. Cyworld's design was too "cute," and it had many design elements that were compatible with Korea's blazing fast Internet but clunky with slower Internet elsewhere in the world. Now, Facebook may have overtaken Cyworld as the leading social networking site in Korea, and that is not because Facebook is functionally so much better than Cyworld.
The post, and a lot of the blog, is an interesting read and a different viewpoint from own.  Good stuff.

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