North Korea’s lesson for American Business

North Korea is infamous for its poverty, military, and its ‘dear leader’ leader Kim Jong Il. Reports state that 60% of North Korea’s children suffer from malnutrition (wanttoknowit), and many people do not even know that man has walked on the moon (trafficgirls). North Korea, a country surrounded by thriving Asian economies, has isolated itself from the outside world and, as a result, now depends on foreign subsidies to sustain its people.

Many organizations suffer from NKIS, or North Korean Isolation Syndrome. Its effects are tragic, dangerous, and dramatic. Netflix had a scary run-in with NKIS when it announced dramatic price changes back in 2011. BP chose to ignore public opinion for quite some time after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. NKIS is an easy trap to fall into, but fortunately there is a 3-step process of avoidance.

Measure Results and Make Changes
North Korea’s policies are failing North Korea. But is North Korea changing? No. Many companies approach decisions with a shotgun approach. They cover every base and pursue many solutions for one or two simple problems. One CEO recently told me “Everyone told me I should be on Facebook, so I got on Facebook.” Rather than making your organization a jack-of-all-trades, use the rifle approach. Set a clear, measurable purpose for every company endeavor. Then measure the results. If an effort’s ROI is lacking, then make changes. Do not settle for less than positive returns.

Find and Act on Public Feedback
The DPRK has closed its borders and its mind to the outside world. It refuses to hear criticism, advice, or even angry threats of longtime allies. Some companies do the same thing. Get your company on local listings so that you can see what your customers want to say about you. Visit Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local to set up these accounts. Add a ‘feedback’ section to your company website so that visitors can tell you about their experiences with your company. Next, listen to the feedback. Some reviews are hostile and maybe even malevolently inaccurate, so scan reviews for nuggets of truth. Finally, act on feedback. Respectfully and humbly respond to negative comments, and then act on them. Make changes in your company to get more in-line with your customers’ wishes.

Follow Your Industry
A lot of countries have succeeded. In fact, the standard of living in almost all countries has risen significantly in the last 20 years. North Korea could have taken a lesson from others in its ‘industry’ and grown its own standard of living. But no, the powerful People’s Republic decided to ignore its industry and go-it alone. Companies that last pay close attention to their industry. Find industry conferences, publications, and expos and get involved within your industry. Learn what other companies are doing and adopt the best practices. Network within this industry to get leads, share your expertise, and stay on top of industry trends.

NKIS is growing, but it can be stopped. Companies that have followed these three steps have found unprecedented growth and a clarified vision. If you or someone you love is suffering from North Korean Isolation Syndrome, please encourage them to get help, and share with them these three steps.

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