On October 27, the CEO of Kakao Ji-Hoon Rim gave a seminar on the topic of innovation and the effect of Kakao’s culture on its success at the Creative Learning Building (E11).
KakaoTalk is the most popular messenger service in South Korea with over 39 million active users every day. A graduate of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Rim was also the CEO of K Cube Ventures, an investment startup that Daum, a web portal company now owned by Kakao, later purchased.
Rim explained that people misunderstand where innovation comes from. Most of the “conventional” innovations come from sophisticated data analysis that tries to “predict the future”. People tend to look for a business with high growth potential and then imitate the most popular service that is already established.
However, Rim argues that innovation also comes from looking into people’s everyday lives. No matter how good the analyses and statistics are, people thinking “outside the box” can never understand the true needs of the people’s lives.
As a platform that connects a large number of people on a daily basis, Kakao approaches problems by connecting the people. When Kakao thought of its gifting service, for example, Kakao noticed that in everyday interactions, people would want to give gifts to one another, but asking for someone else’s address would be difficult at times. Kakao developed its gifting service so that the receivers can input their addresses after someone sends them a gift.
Rim also discussed the importance of Kakao’s culture in providing an environment for innovative ideas. The three main aspects of the culture are trust, collision, and devotion. Everyone must first trust each other in that every opinion is assumed to reflect the speaker’s intentions to provide a better service. Then, everyone is free to “collide” with each other in justifying their voices. Finally, after a sufficient number of collisions among the members leads to a final decision, everybody devotes to the same goal that was agreed upon in the discussion.
Rim emphasized that no one is omnipotent — innovations spur from variety. Variety can exist and be encouraged only when everybody feels like they have an equal say in important decisions.
Rim concluded the seminar by emphasizing the importance of understanding each other, stating, “Finding solutions for the problems is an easy task but working together as a group is always the hard part ... Only through respect and the effort to understand one another can everybody stay on the same page for the common goal.”