Joshua Spodek and North Korean guide Ms Han - photo by Joseph A Ferris III
Joshua Spodek, North Korean travel buddy and author of the book Understanding North Korea: Demystifying the World’s Most Misunderstood Country, recently gave the following strategy lecture — how business competitive analysis makes the actions of the world’s most erratic nation start to make complete sense —
The video cuts the lecture off a little short but Joshua gives additional insights:
From Joshua’s blog - The video didn’t capture the questions and answers afterward. One of the first questions people asked was if I worried I was overly sympathetic to North Korean decision-makers. My goal is to understand them and their perspective, which people sometimes interpret as support.
It bears repeating that understanding doesn’t mean support. If you want to influence someone — what else do we strategize about? — I consider ignorance of their perspective the least productive starting point. Once you understand that understanding doesn’t mean support, you begin to learn about them. Then you can influence them.
Come to think of it, a less productive starting point than ignorance is beginning with condemnation. No matter how justified you feel, you can rest assured the person you condemn won’t share your opinion. They’ll feel misunderstood if you lucky. More likely they’ll feel more right than before.
You will lose credibility, since they will feel they know more about themselves than you do and you disagree on what they feel they know better, and they will likely reinforce their position. Now you have two parties who both consider themselves right and the other wrong.
Of course, if you have overwhelming force you can always overpower the other party, but, as the video (and decades of history) show, no one has force that can overwhelm North Korea’s strategic competitive advantage.
Once you understand each other, you have a hope of influence.