One of my favorite activities each summer is to attend the Willow Creek GLS and it is coming this week. This is a high-powered event across the country with some of the most creative and innovator thinkers and entrepreneurs in the non-profit and for-profit business world. In fact, some of us at ISAAC will be attending (http://www.isaacweb.org/east).
One particularly interesting speaker will be Susan Cain, author of the NY Times bestselling book Quiet: the Power of Introverts. She has a lot to say that’s applicable to Asian Americans. Here’s one interesting quote from her chapter “Soft Power: Asian Americans and the Extrovert.”
For Asian-American kids, the cost of failing to fit in is social unease. But as they grow up, they may pay the price with their paychecks. The journalist Nicholas Lemann once interviewed a group of Asian-Americans on the subject of meritocracy for his book The Big Test. “A sentiment that emerges consistently,” he wrote, “is that meritocracy ends on graduation day, and that afterward, Asians start to fall behind because they don’t have quite the right cultural style for getting ahead: too passive, not hail-fellow-well-met enough.”
I met many professionals in Cupertino who were struggling with this issue. A well-heeled housewife confided that all the husbands in her social circle had recently accepted jobs in China, and were now commuting between Cupertino and Shanghai, partly because their quiet styles prevented them from advancing locally. The American companies “think they can’t handle business,” she said, “because of presentation. In business, you have to put a lot of nonsense together and present it. My husband always just makes his point and that’s the end of it. When you look at big companies, almost none of the top executives are Asians. They hire someone who doesn’t know anything about the business, maybe he can make a good presentation.”
Food for thought? Stay tuned.
– Milton Eng is Project Director for ISAAC East