How Taiwanese Companies Can Be More Competitive: Lose Face

Psychological Safety — when you feel you can take risks when you are part of a team and not feel insecure or embarrassed. This is what Google has found after extensive researching and HBR (one of the only decent biz-strat magazines) has reported on.

It makes complete sense that this is the most important thing. This is where the rubber hits the road. Sure, other things are important: dependability, meaning, impact, etc, but this is by far #1.

If you don’t feel safe on your team, you will not operate at your best, and the solution space you provide will shrink. That is irrational. When you decrease the incentives for others to actually do their job (provide solutions), then you are more likely to fail. Also, as the speed of innovation and economy picks up, we need more creative and “out-there” solutions to problems to be competitive.

When you fear that your solution won’t be accepted so you shy away from that, you hurt yourself, your career, and your company. When you create an environment of fear you are shooting yourself in the foot.

People’s communication and cultural styles come in many forms, but every culture and style has to make room for the emotions of others in idea transactions. Someone may be logically wrong, but that is no reason to discriminate against them. If you chose to hire them and they provide consistently poor results after your best efforts to train them, then of course you can fire them; however, if you were good at hiring, and you create a growth-mindset/mentor-oriented/open-for-discussion environment in which the feelings and ideas of others are equally valued, then you have a higher chance of succeeding at solving the problem at hand.

In Taiwan, people are more afraid to look bad and more afraid of making others look bad because of the concept of face. Face creates three very specific inefficiencies : 1. real problems are often not discussed and are continually swept under the rug, 2. authority is overly relied upon, and 3. people are afraid to take new chances, due to the possibility losing their face or that of their supervisor. What is ironic is that Taiwan would have better success, and more to be proud of by not being so concerned about face.

Taiwan is an amazing place. It has, and continues to, accomplish near miracles considering the odds against it globally. But, like any culture, there is room to explore, learn, and improve.

Currently there is a lot to be done here in terms of improving the environments of work and school to provide that safety, where exploration is encouraged and strange ideas and failures can be celebrated instead of feared so much that they never see the light of day.

Let’s work together to create safe open spaces in work, where we will support each other in the face of risks, new ideas, and new situations. Let’s all lose some face individually, to create a better face for Taiwan as a whole.