[FOUNTAIN]The power of detailIn China lived a man named Cha Buduo. His name literally means “not much difference” or “good enough.” His name suited his behavior. When his mother asked him to buy white sugar, he would bring back brown sugar. His mother would complain, but he would say that they were the same sugars. He grew up and became an accountant, but he often confused the Chinese characters for 10 and 1,000. His client would get furious at the mistake, but he grumbled that the two characters were the same except for only one stroke.
Then he became ill. He told his family that he wished to see Dr. Wang. However, his family made a mistake and called Mr. Wang the veterinarian. Mr. Cha, who was dying from being treated like a sick cow, said on his deathbed, “There is not much difference between the living and the dead.” Written by Hu Shih, the story is a poignant criticism of the mentality of “doing things approximately” in early 20th century China.
In the 21st century, China is paying attention to details. In Wang Jungchu’s way of calculation, 100-1=0. His book “The Power of Detail” has swept the entire country. Arithmetically, 100-1 equals 99. However, Mr. Wang argues that 100-1 is zero in life. A 1 percent mistake will lead to 100 percent failure, and when a product is 1 percent not as good as a rival product, there is no place for the product in the market.
Mr. Wang reckons that former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was a master of detail in a Chinese way. Mr. Zhou used to visit the kitchen prior to dinners he hosted for foreign guests. He would ask the chef to prepare a noodle soup for him. The chef was perplexed at first, but later realized the Chinese leader’s intention. Mr. Zhou had a light meal before the dinner so that he did not have to eat at the dinner and could give all his attention to his guests.
Chinese business giants are also actively working to reinforce details. Lenovo Group, the largest personal computer manufacturer in Asia, set a rule that those who were late for executive meetings would have to stand for 10 minutes at the meeting. Even Chairman Liu Chuanzhi had to follow the rule when he was late. At his inauguration speech, Haier Group Chairman Zhang Ruimin demanded that employees not urinate around the factory. Premier Wen Jiabao even helped a worker receive back wages of 2,240 yuan, about $290. He followed the teaching of Mr. Zhou, who said, “You can achieve big things when you do your best in small things.”
If China breaks away from the approximation mentality and is armed with the power of detail, I am not sure whether Korea has a place to stand.
by You Sang-chul
The writer is the Asia news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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