Legacy of Jobs
By Cho Mu-hyun
It may seem difficult at first glance to find a connection between information technology industries and the studies of the humanities, but company chief executives are propagating the importance of culture to connect with employees, consumers and making products.
The late Steve Jobs has stressed the importance of blending humanities with technology: “technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.” LG Uplus CEO Lee Sang-cheol is well known for his strong penchant for literature and stresses the importance of humanities as an important aspect of deciding the company’s direction.
“The CEO is a great lover of the classics, and occasionally mentions Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Faust and other classics during meetings,” said an LG Uplus spokesperson at the firm’s president identity division.
“Lee stresses that there is life and all the human emotions embedded in the classics and recommends it to officials to read them and apply them.” Lee also tours the company monthly to converse those on the ground level, while always having books in the humanities ready to doll it out for recommendation to those he meet. Not only does he try to break the difficult barrier between the boss and employees, he asks them to build a lasting interest in culture, for themselves, and ultimately for the company as well.
“Employees generally cherish the moments to talk to the bosses.
Most communication between the officials and employees has been through an impersonal message board. The chief is aiming to build a strong communicative and value-centered culture within the firm.” Lee Suk-chae, chairman of KT, is also another aficionado of the humanities, quotes numerous adages from classical Chinese literature and Asian folklore in all occasions to stress his points.
The chairman’s love for the humanities have been seeping into various part of the company to give employees who usually either have a degree in engineering or business, a “new perspective,” according to company officials.
“Our chairman is very famous for quoting Chinese sayings, inside and outside of the company at press conference, workshops and other various meetings,” said a KT spokesperson.
“His fondness for the humanities has instigated board members and employees to read more novels and poems instead of manuals and circuit diagrams.” KT has formed a team called Group Media Communications under its human relation division that prepare workshops and classes to actively educate its employees to learn more about subjects outside of telecommunications and businesses, like literature.
SK Telecom also has company policies that support employees’ cultural perspectives. The firm holds weekly seminars near the company headquarters in downtown Seoul with a variety of classes in liberal arts prepared.
“Company CEOs are showing incredible amount of expectations from humanities and the liberal arts,” said Lee Woochang, professor at International Global Management (IGM), a firm that specializes in educating and consulting chief executives.
“CEOs in the past have mulled over what their competitors were doing, which lacked creativity, but now instead focus on gaining insights from the humanities to become creative by themselves.”