China the smartest?

The stereotype happily depicts China as an innovation desert. That is lazy and arrogant and every day less true. It is also dangerous. Because attachment to stereotypes might imply that you can’t see properly what is coming, what’s next.

For Shanghai Institute of Technology I research on a regular basis the best and most innovative that Europe and America offer to the world. For instance regarding smart technologies. When I recently presented in Shanghai the latest outcomes on that topic – smart technologies in Europe – , the reaction surprised me. “Thanks a lot, professor. We now consider China as equally smart or even smarter than the West.

Unfortunately however, we think that the West doesn’t realize this – still.” My Shanghai audience, professionals and academics, brought the statement with full confidence as totally self-evident. Their fresh self-assuredness does not stand on its own. It is going general. CEO Zhang of Haier expresses it like this: “In the past trade and management were simple. We just repeated what the Americans and the Japanese did. These days are over. We don’t have any leading role models and examples anymore”. Haier now is bigger in revenues and profits that its two closest international competitors, Whirlpool (USA) and Electrolux (Europe).
The Chinese business leap forward should not surprise anyone. We often observe with some contempt that in China intellectual property rights are not respected. That however comes with an unexpected and surprising advantage. Exactly because everybody in China is ‘copying’ so fanatically, no one can permit themselves to rest on laurels for only one safe moment.

Continuous innovation – which means: incremental innovation – is an ever-urgent necessity. And when your focus is on continuous incremental innovation, which is the natural habitude of the Chinese, chances are that you will be the first to come across a real breakthrough, a serious blue ocean. In the meanwhile, those tiny incremental innovations are never hailed in the media. They are, well, too tiny for that. However, these tiny innovations are happening in the biggest market available on this earth, China’s mainland. (China has 2.5 times more Internet visitors than the USA.) There, in China’s huge mainland, they are refined over and over again in order to reap huge successes and in the process making clever businesses rich, very rich. There are far more of these businesses than the handful we bother to know – Haier, Lenovo, Alibaba, Xiaomi. Many of the unknown other ones are now developing international expansion plans. First direction India or Brazil. After that, when they have grown even richer, aiming at the ultimate crown, Europe and the USA.

Dropping a stereotype – like China’s innovation desert -can be wise and lucrative. Goldman Sachs realized this when the company bought 23% of Alibaba stocks very early in the race. For a meager five million dollars. Not dropping a stereotype, on the opposite can be quite dangerous. Huh, I see a tunnel. Huh, I see a light. Huh, it is approaching. Bam!

About the author:
Prof. Dr. Carl C.Rohde is a worldwide reputed trend watcher and cultural sociologist who distinguishes himself by his academic depth and by the broad scope of his empirical research projects. Rohde gives lectures and presentations all over the world — both in the academic circuit and in the business circuit.
Besides that, Carl Rohde leads
 www.scienceofthetime.com, a virtual network of market and trend researchers worldwide. Science of the time, is one of the leading trend watch and innovation research institutes worldwide and conducts the biggest international Youth Mentality trend research.
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