It’s one of the most coveted places on the planet – few get to go inside, fewer still get to make a speech there – but Oliver Shiell, CKGSB’s Chief Representative in Europe, recently had the opportunity of a lifetime after being invited to the prestigious Cholmondeley Room at The House of Lords in London to discuss the UK-China relationship through the eyes of both Chinese and British senior executives.
Addressing an All Parliamentary Group for East Asian Business, Shiell explained that global business is often conducted at an all-too-superficial level. In order to combat that, Shiell and his team in London bring several hundred Chinese CEOs to the UK every year in small groups as part of CKGSB’s Global CEO program, with the aim of fostering deeper links between East and West – and making business more efficient as a result.
The assembled crowd heard how these Chinese executives want to create global brands, make acquisitions, form joint ventures and diversify investment portfolios, but they also realize the importance of finding the right western partners and building solid relationships. The perspectives of each side can stem from polar opposites, but, given time, Shiell believes that human interaction can bridge those gaps.
“How have we become who we are we today, what shaped us, and where are we headed? This is something CKGSB understands. Our Chinese clients are trying to make sense of the world and their place in it, while our UK clients are trying to make sense of the opportunities created by China’s economic rise. Whilst it is clear that the two sides are keen to work together, our observation is that both can struggle to develop the dual perspectives and understanding they need,” Shiell said.
But Shiell pointed to Huawei’s ability to integrate in the UK and Jaguar Land Rover’s success in accessing and serving Chinese consumers as prime examples of how true understanding can elevate a company above its rivals. Most often than not, the key is to think outside the box by applying a new and refreshing take on a familiar problem to become conversant across a range of models, mindsets and behaviors. But, unfortunately, many schools around the world today maintain the ‘business as usual’ mantra – and that no longer works.
Nearly 90% of case studies used in business school teaching worldwide focus on western firms operating in the west, but as Shiell humorously pointed out, when it comes to understanding the leadership, strategic intent or management activities of Chinese counterparts, that is the equivalent of studying German in order to understand Arabic.
Shiell then explained CKGSB’s belief that the future of management education is not the amplification of dominant local thinking, but rather the exploration, adaption and integration of contradictory ideas. CKGSB’s upcoming Dual Executive MBA program with IMD in Switzerland – currently top of the FT global rankings will combine the best learning from East and West to do exactly that. Only by understanding both sides of the coin can Chinese and western executives deliver on the rich promise of future global partnerships.