Bill Fischer

Competitors from China are becoming better, IMD-professor Bill Fischer concludes in Forbes. Cheap labor and competitive pricing are replaced by a far greater asset: listening better to their clients. Fischer zooms in on UnionPay, China’s only electronic retail network.

Huawei, Lenovo and Haier are some of the familiar Chinese names in global competition, but more are getting ready, Bill Fischer discovered at the UnionPay headquarters, talking to Mr. Chai Hongfeng, Director and Executive Vice President.

He is an urbane, sophisticated, cosmopolitan executive, who could have stepped off of the cover of Forbes, and he summarized the company’s managerial needs with four words…:

“Study, Standards, Cooperation, and Innovation”: this is not about price. Nor is this the image of the traditional State-Owned Enterprise dinosaur.What this is, instead, is a recipe for learning more and faster than their competitors. This is all about building a smarter organization.

Some 16 years ago, Peter F. Drucker, the management gurus’ guru, predicted that the next big managerial innovation would come out of China, and we’re still waiting. Perhaps, somewhat unexpectedly, it might just be the ability to listen better in an effort to construct faster-learning organizations? In the spirit of that sentiment, my good friend William Keller, the former CEO of Roche China, and a long-time Shanghai resident, has observed that in the competition for learning about how to do business in this brave new world of globalization, Western firms travel the world telling others “how to do it”, while Chinese firms travel the world “listening to the lessons of others.” Keller asks: “Who do you think will learn faster”? Granted “listening” is not necessarily the same as “learning”, nor is either a guarantee for building an effectively “smarter” competitor. But, listening and learning do strike me as excellent starting points for competing in the ideas business.

More about his findings in Forbes.

Bill Fischer is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. When you need him at your meeting or conference, do get in touch.

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