Naturally, Karamchedu has analyzed the lessons he learned, reducing his
insights to the comprehensive list of “disconnects” laid out in his
But during the interview, he highlighted the following
five points--as something that either caught him by surprise, or what
he saw his team struggling with at the U.S.-China chip company.
1. Never underestimate the political environment
read the political environment correctly is a serious challenge--both
in China and the United States. While many EE Times readers often advise
us to keep politics out of stories, the consequences of not knowing
how politics works in a certain region (or being clueless about who is
favoring whom in that region due to which reasons) are dire.
At the time
of Legend Silicon’s startup, the transition to DTV in China was moving
more slowly than anyone had expected (despite the Olympics).
who was going to pay the transition cost--necessary to make changes in
China’s broadcasting infrastructure--remained in question. Chinese
officials might unexpectedly ask for financial assistance, expect
kickbacks or decide to do nothing. Simply put, there was no orderly
transition process in place, and there was, hence, no conventional open
market ready for chip vendors like Legend Silicon to jump in. Instead,
the small new company found itself doing the heavy lifting needed for a
nation’s DTV transition.
2. Novelty vs. innovation
in the Western technology field, what used to be considered “invention”
is now reduced to “innovation,” which often amounts to the simple
addition of new bells and whistles to systems. China is now taking that
trend to another level. They love grabbing onto “novelty” (whether it is
a new trend for 5-inch screen smartphones or quad-core apps processors)
and developing those gimmicks quickly. They know how to add
“innovation-cum-novelties” at low cost.
It’s almost as though
the Chinese have learned how to “blast” gimmick innovations made by the
West and they’re now beating the Western companies at their own game,
DrQuine, I like your definition of "innovation." That's very clear.
In defense of Mr. Karamchedu, however, I would like to point out that it wasn't Karamchedu but me who wrote the sentence on innovation. I wanted to illustrate how the original definition of "innovation" has gotten dilluted so much (mostly by the marketing machines) to the point that almost everyone today, even in the U.S., uses the word "innovation" very lightly.
And the author Karamchedu's point was that Chinese are now taking advantage of the very dilluted meaning of "innovation" and they are now saying that they, too, are innovating...
Karamchedu's understanding of "innovation" is quite different from mine. I understand "invention" to be the creation of a new idea (a patent) but "innovation" is the complete process of identifying a need, inventing a solution, and carrying that to market. I see innovation as broader than invention. Adding bells and whistles to an existing concept is neither innovation nor invention, it is product improvement or market expansion.
Hi Junko. My role in China was mostly limited to core R&D activities, so I had little interaction with customers. Regarding feedback from colleagues, I had to study/adapt. This included:
1. Learning to speak/read the language well enough to bridge the communication gaps.
2. Learning how and when to allow my colleagues to save face in potentially awkward situations.
3. Significant time spent socializing and building guanxi through activities such as basketball, badminton, karaoke, company trips, etc.
4. Adjusting my management style to a more 'traditional Chinese' one on a tactical basis.
5. Regular forced progress reports both in group meetings (8am sharp on Mondays, no exceptions) and written format.
6. For people I wasn't managing and who weren't forthcoming, I would take alternate paths, such as sending someone else to ask.
7. Rewarding people who gave good feedback.
There are others, but most of the items on this list are not necessarily China-specific. What really took getting used to was the reticence in speaking up to begin with, especially if someone was stuck or behind on their task.
In the US, where I started my career, speaking out is received much better than in China. In the end, patience and persistence won out.
typically, China doesn't have big players in the semiconductor industry. Although they host plenty without the characteristics you describe.
Of course, smaller unknown manufactures will seek niche's in the market. It is expected they will be more creative and less open due to high risk products. I don't think this has anything to do with the Chinese per se.
I agree, the dual-SIM card phone is a uniquely Chinese "innovation." Those who ignored (read Nokia) the trend initially missed out on the opportunity big time.
So, here's my question. If you are not getting any feedback from your Chinese colleagues or customers, what steps would you have to take?
How do you get used to that? Is there any way to remedy that?
Perhaps. But I'd like to point out that I didn't make up this list -- out of thin air.
This jives well with what I've heard over and over with a number of people I talked to (who work at China-U.S. companies)over the last few years.
While the labor cost issue becomes the first thing every U.S. company pays attention to when it forms partnerships with Chinese colleagues and customers, in the end, I think the cultural gap (in terms of business practices) is much bigger than we all realize.
I welcome anyone's first-hand experience working at a U.S.-China company.
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