China Myths, China Facts

Chinese business culture is unique, but not in all the ways outsiders tend to assume. To identify the most common myths, we interviewed dozens of North American and European expats as well as some Chinese managers now working in the West, all of whom have spent at least three years doing business in China. Our research uncovered three principal myths, perpetuated informally through stereotypes and formally through management-training programs.

Anyone working with the Chinese will find a multifaceted, fast-changing culture. As one respondent notes, managers can tap Eastern and Western strengths alike by learning the nuances of both business cultures and developing the flexibility to work in either one. “The Chinese will often pop in to see you with no appointment,” says one executive. “I’ve learned I can do this, too. If I have 30 minutes to spare, I just make a quick call from a taxi and visit someone working in the area.”

Myth 1: Collectivism

Reality: Individualism

Wei Chen, a Chinese manager in Paris’s luxury goods sector, attributes the rise in individualism to citizens’ suppression for many generations: “As a child I was punished for stepping out of the box and told to ‘be average.’ But we have left this mentality with a passion. In China, we are so eager to move ahead. Westerners often feel our style is pushy and aggressive.” An executive at a Canadian pharmaceutical company points out, “There is an intense self-interest [in China]—more important than company, community, or nation. It is like nothing I have experienced in the West. The U.S. is generally considered the most individualistic part of the world, but it has nothing on China.” Interview subjects cited the Cultural Revolution, the one-child policy, and mass migration to big cities as factors in the unraveling collective spirit.

The part of the myth that’s true: Decisions are often made in groups, and the Chinese are highly skilled at working in teams.

Myth 2: Long-term deliberation

Reality: Real-time reaction

Managers unanimously indicated that the speed of decision making and execution in China is extraordinary compared with the West, where “we spend time trying to predict the future and getting it wrong,” says Frédéric Maury, a French executive in technical services. “In China no one thinks about the future.” That’s hyperbole, perhaps, but a manager who has worked for the World Bank in China for a decade agrees with the sentiment, saying that ad hoc logistics are quite common but amazingly well executed. “I’ve attended dozens if not hundreds of workshops in China, and not one has gone according to plan. Things change the night before: speakers, topics, even venues. But it all always ends up working out fine.”

The part of the myth that’s true: Business relationships and government policies are both built for the long term.

Myth 3: Risk aversion

Reality: Risk tolerance

“In the West we like to debate something, print it out, debate it again, do some analysis,” says British logistics executive Michael Drake. “But in China it’s, ‘Right, we’ve decided, boom, off we go!’” Many participants believe the appetite for risk is tied to growth. Edith Coron, a French intercultural consultant and coach, says, “In an environment where GDP is growing at over 10% a year, it’s understandable that the level of entrepreneurship and risk taking should be so high.” Chinese manager Wei Chen confirms, “We don’t want to lose a single minute. We have a lot of confidence, and we are very comfortable with risk.”

The part of the myth that’s true: Chinese workers often hesitate to give individual opinions or brainstorm openly when more-senior people are present.

Rethinking Marketing

Imagine a brand manager sitting in his office developing a marketing strategy for his company’s new sports drink. He identifies which broad market segments to target, sets prices and promotions, and plans mass media communications. The brand’s performance will be measured by aggregate sales and profitability, and his pay and future prospects will hinge on those numbers.

What’s wrong with this picture? This firm—like too many—is still managed as if it were stuck in the 1960s, an era of mass markets, mass media, and impersonal transactions. Yet never before have companies had such powerful technologies for interacting directly with customers, collecting and mining information about them, and tailoring their offerings accordingly.

What does a customer-cultivating organization look like? Although no company has a fully realized customer-focused structure, we can see the features of one in a variety of companies making the transition. The most dramatic change will be the marketing department’s reinvention as a “customer department.” The first order of business is to replace the traditional CMO with a new type of leader—a chief customer officer.

Chief customer officers are increasingly common in companies worldwide—there are more than 300 today, up from 30 in 2003. Companies as diverse as Chrysler, Hershey’s, Oracle, Samsung, Sears, United Airlines, Sun Microsystems, and Wachovia now have CCOs. But too often the CCO is merely trying to make a conventional organization more customer-centric. In general, it’s a poorly defined role—which may account for CCOs’ dubious distinction as having the shortest tenure of all C-suite executives.

Like any other organizational transformation, making a product-focused company fully customer-centric will be difficult. The IT group will want to hang on to CRM; R&D is going to fight hard to keep its relative autonomy; and most important, traditional marketing executives will battle for their jobs. Because the change requires overcoming entrenched interests, it won’t happen organically. Transformation must be driven from the top down. But however daunting, the shift is inevitable. It will soon be the only competitive way to serve customers.

Excerpts of article from

Nieman Foundation at Harvard – To Prepare for the Future, Skip the Present:

The probable elimination of a raft of second-tier newspapers during this economic downturn will provide a fertile environment for a new generation of digital media businesses to flourish. Here are 10 ways that will help newspapers make the transition to digital media companies:

Narrow the focus. When newspapers operated regional monopolies, readers depended on them to cover a wide range of subjects. Newspapers still routinely use their own reporters to cover a gamut of stories, ranging from politics to sport and business. That’s nonsensical in the Internet era, when readers may choose content from a variety of sources. Instead, media companies need to invest more money in their premium content—editorial that is unavailable elsewhere but that is highly valued by readers. Go deep, not wide.

Plug into a network. Media companies should finance the additional spending on premium content by eliminating editorial costs in areas where they are unable to compete with the best on the Web. If you are weak in sports coverage, link to the best Web site for your local sports. Well-curated hyperlinks to other Web sites are a valuable service for readers, and they cost nothing. Media companies will increasingly see themselves as part of a chain of content, as opposed to a final destination. Journalists will act as filters, writing with authority but also guiding readers to sources that add depth to coverage. The future of journalism is selling expertise, not content.

Rolling news with views. Newspaper deadlines suit publishers, not readers. News is a continuum. It never starts or ends, and coverage should reflect that reality. That doesn’t mean a newsroom needs to be open for business 24/7. If 90 percent of readers don’t log on between midnight and five in the morning, there is little point in being staffed overnight. But it is critical to be alert at the time when your traffic surges—typically between 8 and 10 in the morning and again around lunchtime. Remember: It’s not simply about serving breaking news—the AP and Reuters can handle that. The role of a newspaper company on the Web is to add value: look at a story from a number of angles, engage your audience, add multimedia.

Engage with your readers. The explosion of blogging and social media Web sites has created a culture in which consumers of news expect to be included in the news publishing process. Closed operations that shun reader engagement will increasingly be seen to offer a second-rate experience. Create functionality that encourages readers to share eyewitness accounts of breaking news, rate services such as restaurants and hotels, and get into discussions and debates.

Bottom up, not top down. The reporters on the ground are closest to your readers. They are therefore best placed to conceive, create and nurture community Web sites. Look at which reporters or editors get the largest mailbags and free them up to manage blogs on subjects that your readers are passionate about. That’s likely to be narrow areas such as gardening or a mom’s network, rather than broad subjects, such as politics or sports.

Embrace multimedia. Train editors to see video, photo galleries, graphics and maps as equal storytelling forms to text. A story about Tina Fey’s takeoff of Sarah Palin is incomplete without video highlights from “Saturday Night Live.” A story about a soldier’s life on the frontline in Afghanistan is best told with video, a map, and pictures as well as text.

Nimble, low-cost structures. About 75 percent of newspaper costs have nothing to do with the creation of editorial content. In a digital era there may not be any need for printing presses or vans to transport a physical product. But the switch to digital should also be an opportunity to challenge the need to hold on to other in-house costs. Newspaper companies are bad at technology, so a digitally minded chief technology officer will be able to get cheaper and more effective services by outsourcing. Newspaper sales teams don’t do particularly well at selling ads on the Internet; too often they sell ads that are irrelevant to a reader’s interests in an era when Google has made relevance key. If your sales team can’t beat Google, then outsource to Google.

Invest in the Web. Don’t try to suck too much revenue from your fledgling network. Your Web site needs investment before it can fly. Large networks, such as rail, phone and utilities, took decades to yield substantial returns. A Web revenue-growth model cannot simply be a mirror image of the decline in your newspaper sales.

Shake up leadership. One of the biggest obstacles to planning for a digital future is the senior editor or manager who is wedded to the analogue past. If the people who run your newsroom aren’t passionate about your digital future, it’s certain not to materialize.

Experiment. We are operating in the most creative phase of the media industry’s history. A time when broadcast, text and social media are colliding. Don’t be afraid of failure. Try new projects, see what works, and build on success.

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0 Ways To Monetize Real-Time Data

10. Lead generation

9. Coupons

8. Analytics

7. CRM

6. Payments – If I was at PayPal, I would be looking at this.

5. Commerce

4. User authentication – Corporate accounts want to pay.

3. Syndication of new ads – Twitter itself could just syndicate. Multi-billion.

2. Content advertising and advertising context and display

1. Acquiring followers

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