A Selected Excerpt of a Dialogue on Asia Between the late Peter Drucker and Isao Nakauchi
(The full version is available on a hard paper printed edition entitled “Drucker on Asia: A Dialogue Between Peter Drucker and Isao Nakauchi, Butterworth Heinemann, 1997)
The Secrets of Chinese Management
Unless there is a collapse in China, it is predicted that within a decade or so we will see as many books in the United States and Europe entitled ‘Secrets of Chinese Management’ as, during the last two decades we have seen books entitled ‘Secrets of Japanese Management’. The Chinese are developing a distinct and quite different management style and structure. It has been said that the secret of Japanese management consists in its ability to make a family out of the modern corporation. The secret of Chinese Management may well consist in the ability of the Chinese to make the family into modern corporation.
The Overseas Chinese
It is inarguable that in the last decade a new economic super power has arisen, and one for which we have no precedent at all: the overseas Chinese. They are scattered in great many locations, and along both sides of the Pacific. They are Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore – three relatively small places where the populations entirely or at least predominantly Chinese. There is equally Malaysia, in which people of Chinese ancestors constitute no less than 30 % of the population; and the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, in which people of Chinese ancestry are an even smaller percentage; and there are, of course, Overseac Chinese in Vancouver, Canada; in San Fransisco; and in a good many places in California. The Chinese are mostly loyal citizens of whatever country they live in, yet they also constitute an invisible economic network that is held together by ties of kinship and family. It is held together by the mutual trust of family members which, through China’s 5000 years history, was the only way in which a family could survive and preserve some money. The Overseas Chinese are rapidly building new multi-nationals based primarily on family connections, and often without any major investment of money. This is a phenomenal development, and one that deserves to be studied and taken very seriously.
The Clash between Asian Collectivism and Innovative Frameworks.
Innovation is one of the toughest challenges and is an acute challenge for Asia. One reason is that innovators are not team players. Innovation cannot be done by committee. It is a highly individual and lonely spots. Successful innovators build teams, but they do not work in a team. That is not what existing, large companies of collective Asia want and tolerate, let alone encourage. Yet it is what they have to learn from the West. It requires that society values and respects some notions of individualism rather than staying under the perspective that the whole must be greater than the sum of its parts. Corporations must begin to give ordinary staff and manager the opportunities to be involved in innovation and to really feel the joy of working.
Knowledge Rather Than Skill
In modern societies and organization what is required is people who work increasingly with knowledge rather than skill. Knowledge and skill differ in fundamental characteristics – skills change very, very slowly. Knowledge, however, changes itself. It makes itself obsolete, and very rapidly. The minute a knowledge worker stops formal and purposeful learning, he/she become obsolescent.
Excerpted for public learning by Rudolf Tjandra