It is not often the case that Georgia exports something that cannot be weighed, measured or even touched, but there are always some exceptions. The story of David Gogichaishvili, nicknamed Gogicha, is one such exception. His presentation for TEDx Tbilisi, which is called “What’s So Different About Cultures Anyway?” and uses humor to analyze cultural differences, has accumulated 100,000 views on YouTube, and he has visited various universities around the world to give the talk. He has an original style, a highly professional method of delivery, and a simple yet ingenious idea. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself. In the meantime, you can read below what Gogicha himself had to say to Forbes Georgia about his international success and experiences.
Tell us how you took the idea, and then the process itself, outside Georgia.
The idea went abroad by itself. As you know, the presentation is available for everyone to view on YouTube. I noticed that the video had many views, which was surprising, since it was in English, and 100,000 views is a lot by Georgian standards. I then received an e-mail from a Canadian professor, who told me that he saw and liked my presentation. He asked me for permission to use the video for one of his lectures, and I happily agreed. I liked the gesture of asking for the author’s permission to use a video that was publicly available anyway. The professor also told me that he particularly liked the final part of the presentation, where I talk about spiritual leadership; echoing the narrative of my favorite speaker, Deepak Chopra. On another occasion, I was contacted by a girl from London who told me that my presentation was used by a lecturer at Northumbria University London, and that she was very proud of this fact. Naturally, I told her that I was also delighted by this. The talk was also used at Webster University in Leiden, The Netherlands, and at Barcelona University, and probably at other universities, that I don’t know of.
Have you ever been personally invited to deliver your presentation abroad?
There was a third case, where I was contacted by the Head of the Business and Management Department at Webster University, Arthur De La Loza, who not only wanted to use my TEDxTalk, but also invited me to be a guest speaker in his class, entitled ‘Doing Business in a Cross Cultural Environment’. I gladly took him up on his offer. When he saw the chemistry between the audience and me, he invited me to further lectures in a guest speaker role. He then offered me a teaching role, and I spent two semesters teaching with him. I also remember being told that my talk was used by a college in Barcelona. This firmly convinced me that my presentation was not designed for only a local audience, and that my idea had established itself outside Georgia.
How did your TEDxTalk initially come about? Why did you choose this specific subject?
I was invited to attend the first TEDx Tbilisi in 2013, and I happily accepted. By the time I graduated with my MBA degree, I had mastered both teaching and consulting quite well. I was helped a lot by Andro Dgebuadze, who was my TEDx coach, and is now a good friend of mine. I must thank Andro for any success that I may have achieved thus far, as he helped me put my chaotic ideas in order. Few studies have been conducted about humans having a lot more common features than differences and that being true not only in terms of the cross-cultural context, but also in business specifically. I tried to expand on the idea that basic human values are universal, and only the ways of expressing them are different from each other. For example, we all love our children and suffer the loss of our loved ones, although we may express these emotions differently. In business, this is very important. It’s individual what matters within a culture –especially when we talk about leaders. Leaders are born when they go against their local culture. I like the term ecological fallacy, as it expresses the existing stereotypical approach quite well. For example, if I hear that you are Italian, then I automatically think that you have all the traits that are typical for Italians. Or, if you are Brazilian, then you must love coffee and football, and be a good samba dancer, which may not be the case at all.
So, can we say that at the time when you presented your TEDx- Talk to the public, it was a novelty in Georgia?
I like the concept of the TEDxTalk, because we are generally a very closed society. In terms of generating ideas we have limited vision and oriented towards copying what is already out there. TEDx allows Georgians to make a contribution towards global civilization. I do not wish to boast, but I am certainly proud of the fact that my presentation is being used by universities around the world. It means that my idea is not for Georgians alone, but for everyone across the world.
Does the fact that your ‘product’ has reached an international audience encourage you to enhance your role as a speaker and create talks on other interesting subjects?
If I reflect on the period when I was doing my MBA studies in the Netherlands alongside highly experienced people, such as, executives holding managerial positions at Bank of America, Walmart Brazil, Philips-Europe, Movenpick Hotels Germany, McDonald’s-The Netherlands, and others. The fact that the scale of my own business activities could not come anywhere near the level of these people’s experience initially caused me some stress. However, whenever you feel white envy about something that other people have, you ought to remember that you may also have something that other people will be envious of. As it turned out, I was chosen as group speaker for our first global group assignment, as I spoke better English than the others in the group as they noted, but also because I was already operating my own business in Georgia, and therefore, I had experience in making difficult managerial decisions. My colleagues told me that I was able to explain the essence of management to them. This attitude from them caused a paradigm shift. Experience can be found anywhere, but it is important to establish the right environment for sharing this experience. This is all I do when I arrange People Management Course—a practical course for acting middle and upper level managers – I create an environment where people can share their experiences with each other. And this is so important in business nowadays—a function of a manager is no longer a mere delegation, but rather creating an environment, where people get motivated. Knowledge is not passed on through a magic wand.
As someone who motivates and enables the success of other people, how do you work on yourself?
I am helped by my experience in television, when I was heading a studio and hosting a comedy talk show a show for three years. This experience in communicating with audiences has been very useful to me in my current role. I am naturally quite introverted. What you see from the outside, including my being at the center of attention, is the result of skills that I acquired through learning. I am not talented enough to use difficult words and phrases when I talk – that is for other people. I promote the view that all ingenious ideas are simple.
Why did you leave the television industry? It could not have been due to a lack of success…
Nelson Mandela once said that “after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” I agree with him. There are people who become vain and spend the rest of their lives talking about how they reached a peak, and then there are those who, once they reach a peak, become interested in something new. In my opinion, a person should undergo a fundamental change every 10 years or so. I spent 15 years in the television industry. My team and I did almost everything we could including international success. The novelty factor was no longer there for me in that field.
Since you have achieved recognition abroad and are attracting more and more attention in your role as a speaker, it would be interesting to know whether you have any specific plans for the future, or even for the year ahead?
If you read your CV, you will see that not everything has been planned. Unforeseen things happen in life all the time. There are areas of life that we control, and there are those that we do not. Your heart knows best about what you want. It is, therefore, very difficult to plan everything in advance. I am the same, and I firmly believe that the best stories are rarely created through planning. Special stories are created by insolent people who may not be experts in a particular field but wish to take the bull by the horns. We learn from such people. Inspire others – this is my motto, my plan, my goal and my business.
Prof. Edward Henczel, Okanagan College, Kelowna, BC, Canada
“I have used David Gogichaishvili’s TED Talk -What’s So Different About Cultures Anyway – in a number of my CMNS 112 classes over the last few years. The talk is a great illustration of how to structure a compelling college-level essay. The second reason I like the talk is because of the content. Gogichaishvili’s examples, especially about the families of soldiers on opposite sides of a conflict, resonates with students because they are typically of the same age as soldiers. Finally, I use the talk as a seed for a writing assignment. Gogichaishvili asks the reader to list 15 things they hate about their enemy. I have used this to get my students to list 15 life lessons they have learned the hard way and how these have made them better people. I have watched David Gogichaishvili’s TED Talk dozens of times and each time I find another reason to enjoy it”.
Arthur De La Loza, Esq, Attorney of Law
“Dear Readers, I’m pleased to tell you about David Gogichaishvili, whom I have known for some time. David was a Keynote speaker in my Webster University Business Management Classes, and Professional Seminars – Presented at the World Trade Center in Amsterdam, Netherlands, as well as our main campus at Leiden, Netherlands. His qualities of mind and character are exceptional, and these qualities are reflected in his presentations, including the You Tube video of his TEDx, Talks – TEDx Tbilisi‘What’s so Different About Cultures Anyway?’. David was among the best Presenters I have observed in the Professional Seminars offered at The Center for the Advancement of Women and Diversity, Webster University, Leiden. His passion for research, and preparation, make him an invaluable contributor to any program he joins, as seen in this talk!”
“During one of his lectures at the Ulster University’s London campus, Dr. Daniel Hagan showed us a video of Mr. Davit Gogichaishvili’sTEDxTalk on cultural characteristics in different countries. As it turned out, Dr. Hagan often uses Mr. Gogichaishvili’s videos both in London and at other universities across the world. The video immediately attracted the audience’s attention and received highly positive feedback from the students, many of whom started searching for other materials by Mr. Gogichaishvili. Personally, I was immensely proud of this.”
Dr. Daniel Hagan Northumbria University, London
“In the video, the presenter brilliantly captured the essence of culture in a very captivating manner. By using some organisational Culture theorists like Hofstede, David used examples like the Georgian lateness and the US/Canada/Mexico jokes to bring home some of the challenging cultural issues that make different cultures behave different BUT are the same in equal measure. Cultural studies out there seem to focus too much on how different cultures are around the world, but very little on what makes us the same particularly, in today’s world of technology. My fascination of this TEDx talk is how Gogichaishvili cleverly delivers this piece on divergence and convergence of culture, and my students and audience have always fallen in love with this video. I was in University of Ghana this February for a guest lecture assignment and they laughed and loved this video as well. They all find this talk incredible insightful and educational”.