Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Design and Discrimination
E@L and some of his colleagues were in a meeting all afternoon yesterday with two Head Office bigwigs (head of design, and ex-president) who were there to tell the wonders of what they had been doing all these years to justify their stay at the Fullerton Hotel while the our corporate profits tank. [No, they're not tanking, actually. Stock prices are up 15% in the last three months. You should have bought in 2008, as should have E@L. 300% recovery. Anyway, /digression.]
They only spoke Japanese, but their slides were in English. Nevertheless they read each line, or E@L gathered they did by the tracks of the laser pointer, in Japanese. Then each phrase they had spoken had to be translated for us, and the translator also used a laser pointer to go over each point on the slides carefully. Tedium. Once, the speaker and the translator got a bit lost / confused. They chattered on in Japanese while they perfected the oral translation -- for 4min and 35secs. For the ONE SLIDE - and it was already written there in English. How do I know it was 4:35? One of my colleagues who i thought was taking notes but was actually working on next week's training schedule, timed them. E@L was wondering which of us would get shot when we were the first to stop clapping after one of Stalin’s four hour speeches.
Turns out these guys weren’t all that boring, deep down. After a tea-break they got into some much more interesting freestyle speeches. AND it turns out one of them could speak English moderately well after all! (There’s 4:35 of my life I’ll never get back.)
They had graduated up to near-god status in the medical ultrasound world from their base experience designing washing machines, all those years ago [Tom Stoppard reference]. This caused a suppressed snigger up the back. Not because there is anything wrong with this company's washing machines, they’re quite good in fact, it’s just washing machines don’t have printers, and neither does our latest ultrasound model.
However the main guy said, interestingly, that he went to design school with the most famous unknown legend you’ve never heard of, Fukuda Tamio, who was the key design consultant whose famous(?) 1993 report to Samsung triggered a major turn around in their industrial philosophy, by pushing for higher emphasis on design for convenience, not just better technology. This was in their mobile phone business - back when they were battling Motorola (remember them) and not Apple.
According to legend, as recounted to E@L yesterday, Samsung Electronic’s President, Lee Kun Hee, read Fukuda-san’s report on a flight from Seoul to Frankfurt and was so charged by it that he called for a meeting of 200 executives from around the world in Frankfurt in just two days time, to discuss its implications and the turn around in thinking it demanded.
“Change everything except your wife and children,” he famously said, in a what we would now call a sexistually [new word!] discriminatory speech, to the jet-lagged execs on that landmark day.
And the rest, E@L’s acquaintances, is history.
Speaking of discrimination...
Yeah, so there had been 18 odd people of various ethnicities sitting, fascinated, in the room. A dozen approx at the boardroom table and six less important types (like E@L) up the back in chairs against the wall, passing secret notes and giggling, like at the washing machine and printer hilarity. When the slide said “circuit bore”, it was not a self-disparaging comment on the travelling roadshow lifestyle of the speakers, but a misspelling of “circuit board”. Stop laughing, ow, my jaw hurts, my belly is in cramps from this punitive tsunami of amusement and jocularity.
This morning E@L sees one of those people, a guy from the adjacent office, walk through OUR office on a short-cut to the toilet. Sigh, They do it all the time. One day, someone’ll catch E@L in mid snooze…
E@L asks his cute (but married) Chinese colleagues - who had been sitting next to him at the back wall yesterday - if she knew the name of that senior guy, the Indian man, who E@L sees all the time but could never remember his name since they were first introduced two years ago, who works in the office next door, important, finance maybe, the man sitting to Yai-Wan.
CBMCC: What Indian man?
E@L: You know, the Indian guy. The balding one with glasses. Is it Danesh?
CBMCC: There was no Indian guy there yesterday.
E@L: Of course there was. The guy next to Yai-Wan. [In this instance E@L’s memory was clear - Yai-Wan is also cute.]
CBMCC: That was Takazumi-san.
E@L : No, there was an Indian guy BETWEEN Yai-Wan and Takazumi-san.
CBMCC: There was?
E@L : … You just don't see brown people, do you? They're not real to you. It's like they’re some sort of non-people.
CBMCC: Noooo (laughing)... I didn’t see anyone, because Tim was in the way, that’s why. I really couldn’t see him.
E@L : I KNOW you couldn’t see him! That’s my point! It’s because he’s of the melatonin enriched races isn’t it? Because of the colour of his skin! He might as well not be there. Singapore will have 9million in 2125 and you won’t even see 3million of them! You Chinese are just so… so fucking… so racist!
She was pissing herself laughing at this btw (it's the way E@L tells 'em), couldn't believe she didn't see him, but it was due to where she was sitting. Yeah, right. Like there were thousands of people crowding the room.
E@L: Oh Singaporean, why li dat so racist one?
CBMCC: (hitting at E@L with her tiny fists) Nooooo! It’s not like that!
Ooooooh, yes it is.