When I grew up, it seemed that very disposable product was labeled Made in Japan or Made in China. If it was easy to reproduce or inexpensive, that’s where it was made. Those products may have been made in another country, but it seems we often had to repair or replace them. Made in the USA products were produced in Detroit or Pittsburgh or Chicago. They were solid, reliable, and substantial.
At least that’s the way it seemed to me from my home in Little Rock, Arkansas in the late 20th century.
Japan had its renaissance a generation ago, and today its innovative products are serious players in the world markets. China, on the other hand, has remained mostly a manufacturing economy.
For the last few years, I’ve been making annual trips to China to conduct seminars on leadership, sales, and communication skills. My audiences have been 1000 to 2500 young success seekers who sat enthralled with learning for up to six hours a day as I shared ideas and techniques. It’s not that I’m necessarily that interesting, but rather they are that interested. These folks are hungry! They’re eager to learn.
For generations the Chinese have been learning, copying, and producing what the USA and other countries have thought up, tested, and refined. But now, their leaders are encouraging them to innovate. They want to learn to think like we do.
THE WILL TO PREPARE
There are 400 million millennials in China, born between 1980 and 2000. By contrast, there are 80 million millennials in the USA. China has more young adults than we have people of all ages in our entire country plus all of Canada!
And they work differently than we do. They spend years learning, practicing, and studying. Long before they need to take an entrance exam or compete for a job, they spend hours every day in intense study of their chosen craft. Plus, they want to learn to think like you do. One third of all international students in US universities are Chinese students, learning here then returning home.
Why does this matter to you and me? Because these are the people we’ll be competing with in coming years. They’re learning English, studying in our schools, learning our techniques, and competing with our products. So far it’s been mild, but wait till they start innovating! When their creativity and entrepreneurial juices are unleashed, there will be no force large enough to resist them.
What can you do about it? For one, learn like they do. Start spending a portion of each week learning skills and techniques that you don’t need… yet. Yet, that’s the word to watch. Business is fine now, but what’s the next stage of business for you? Who will you be competing with for tomorrow’s rebuild or repair? What technology will you need to understand to keep up? What could you learn now that’ll give you more options later?
What technology could you begin to invest in today that’ll expand your capacity to reach more customers with more services next year?
To remain a leader in your community, your industry, and against impressive new competitors, you and I must continually innovate and prepare. Create new solutions and exciting ways to do things better than before, and prepare for opportunities that you haven’t even seen yet.
Get ready… for more than you originally thought you’d need to be prepared for. Just keep growing, learning, experimenting, collaborating, and improving. That’s the American Way and it’s what makes the rest of the world want to be more like us. God Bless America!
Footnote: Read Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World by Zak Dychtwald. ISBN 978-1-250-07881-0
Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE Jim Cathcart is a strategic advisor to ATRA, a long time contributor to GEARS, and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. For more on his books, speeches, coaching and advice contact Cathcart.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.