Is China an Innovative Society?

by Stefan Lindegaard

Is China an Innovative Society?I tapped into an interesting discussion on LinkedIn. Chris Gelken, who is host and co-producer of Today, a live news magazine, asked whether China is an innovative society.

Personally, I find the development of China to be both fascinating and a bit frightening seen from a Western perspective. Based on several visit, my take is that if China avoids too many financial bubbles, then the drive and ambition of the Chinese people to climb the value chain ladder will turn it into an innovation hotspot sooner than many think.

There are many great comments in the discussion and I have inserted snippets from a couple of them below. Check out the rest for yourself: Is China an Innovative Society? (requires group membership to China Networking Group)

Zhiyun Chen, Vice President at Pixelligent
I think as indivduals Chinese are very creative. It is result of strong natural selection by firece competetion in a closed society. The problem, though, is Chinese society still lacks mechnisms to channel the creativity of individuals into constructive innovations.

Edward Eng, Copywriter at Getchee
Rather than ask if China is innovate or not, people should focus on how China needs to improve its global marketing skills. The reason why many people think China isn’t innovate is because no one knows what they are doing in China. People and businesses in China have great ideas and products but sometimes they just don’t know how to effectively market them to the global consumer market. This is where China needs to strengthen its innovative juices.

John Walmsley, MD at Scot Lift Systems
They have the ideal situation for innovation as the Universities concentrate on designing and developing products which will meet a market need and not play around learning things which do not relate to Industry and Commerce. Where there is a gap is in Product design where they seem to lack the skills in making their products look modern and appealing. If they get that right then look out World.

Stephen DeKuyper, Managing Principal at CresaPartners
My experience tells me an overwhelming “no”. Good at copying, good at driving costs down, but not innovative. I would be interested in seeing how many patents are applied for out of China. I guess it would be very low. I think with the size of the population, it will go up, but on a per capita basis, I think it will remain low. This does not equate to being smart or not. I just don’t think there is an environment for innovation.

Bill Dodson, Principal at TrendsAsia
China excels at innovation, but not disruptive Innovation. “Small i” innovation is about patching and work-arounds. “Big I” Innovation is about changing the course of markets and even of societies. Chinese culture and history have always been supportive of “small i” innovation, due to the capricious nature of local government policies and decisions; and due to dramatic turns of events – revolts, revolutions, banditry, dynastic dissolution – that quickly destroy the fruits of labor. Hence, the tendency of so many constructions and creations in Chinese society to be just “good enough”; after all, who knows how long such works will be able to stand?

What do you think? Is China an innovative society?

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Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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