creativity needed to sustain growth
(Alexander Wan and Selina Lo)
local Chinese industries ready to design and innovate, or is it
easier and more cost effective just to copy others like other
Asian economies are doing? Those were the questions raised by
delegates at the 20th China Daily CEO Roundtable meeting held
on November 30, 2005.
questions provoked ardent discussion at the "Next Generation
Design, Innovation and Creativity for China" meeting, co-hosted
by China Daily and the Illinois Institute of Technology. More
than 30 CEOs and senior executives from prestigious companies
in the design, media, lifestyle, technology, communications, education
and legal sectors sat down at the Peninsula Palace Beijing with
one objective: to exchange views on China's capacity and challenges
in rising to the global stage of design and innovation. Mary Ma,
a former national model and now president of her own fashion design
company, was among the distinguished delegates that attended the
a more active role
their opening speeches, both honorary chairmen at the 20th roundtable
were optimistic when discussing the future of design in China
and its implications for the country.
is progressing in its revolution from the old, stifled economy
into a robust and global economy," began Victor Chu, chairman
of the First Eastern Investment Group."As China is still
in transition, I think it will make a difference whether it can
be at the cutting edge of innovation - not just on the industry
side, but on the financial and social side as well."
centre of gravity, energy and growth of the design market is shifting
from North America to Asia," said Professor Patrick Whitney,
principal of the IIT Institute of Design. He was equally excited
about China's creative prospects. "When things are designed
by Chinese factories they are exported back to the West.But I
think that model will change and we'll be designing things in
China for China."
Boustany, chairman and managing director of Boustany Projects
Development, welcomed Chinese influence in the global design market.
was completely absent from everything that had to do with creativity
and innovation just a few years ago," he said. "The
countries that are currently on the world scene have reached a
level where there's nothing new, so it's very healthy for everybody
to have China come into the picture now. It will introduce and
impose its tastes, styles and specifications onto others."
Nussbaum, assistant managing editor of Business Week, claimed
it was only in the past year or two that he has been able to see
"that there is a great deal of value to design thinking,
design strategy and innovation."Which means China is not
so far behind.
only been recently that large corporations such as Apple, Starbucks
and General Electric have led to a tipping point in the US economy
for going very deeply into design and innovation," Nussbaum
remarked. "It would be wonderful to see how China adapts
and evolves in terms of innovation and design because the US is
just about to begin as well."
as a necessity
is a necessity rather than a luxury in the foreseeable future,"
claimed Moses Cheng, senior partner at Messrs PC Woo & Co
and the chairman of the listing committees of the main and the
GEM boards of Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing Limited."I
would say that design is a requirement for survival rather than
the traditional belief that it only adds values to whatever you
are doing right now."
illustrated his point by explaining how the changing political
and economic climate in Hong Kong has forced him to 'redesign'
his legal practice by moving to the mainland.
of what industry you are in, you've got to be able to understand
your situation and be ready to react to it," said Cheng,
whose interpretation added a creative twist and a much broader
meaning to creativity and design.
of the solutions and applications department of Nokia (China)
Investment Company, Asha Hemrajani, said her personal and company
interests were the same as this.
think design is a necessity because of how all these things are
tied together," said Hemrajani."We're working very hard
to see how we can increase penetration of mobile telephony into
the huge markets of China and India, where even some basic utilities,
like electricity, doesn't exist.We have to design something that
is affordable, can be used without a running source of electricity
and yet still be able to make money for us.I'm thinking of design
for low-end products, which has largely been ignored.
hope that design or the answer to this big question comes from
Asia because only Asians can design best for Asians."
Tsiang, executive vice-president of China's leading portal website
Sina.com, argued that it actually takes a lot of innovation to
localize a business model, so China should not be accused of being
a mere copycat.
see so many great companies coming out of the US and Chinese companies
seem to be copying all their great ideas.But if you look at it
deeper, there's a whole lot of context in terms of localization.We
develop a unique feel and look for the China market."
for the creative industry to flourish, China must first tackle
some infrastructural and mindset problems of its own.
China can take advantage of its opportunities depends not just
on design, but also on other soft infrastructure developments,
like the protection of intellectual property rights and the dynamism
of government officials to promote and open the landscape, particularly
in the multimedia sectors," said Chu.
Mathur, CEO of Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd, which
produces consumer durables, finds many similarities in the design
industries of China and India.
think to bring a culture of innovation into these developing countries,
it's very important that we make SMEs become innovative because
they are the ones who add to the value chain for large corporate
houses," Mathur observed.
it's very difficult for an individual company to move about in
developing countries. We need a new, strategic design policy which
will take the whole industry forward by involving policy makers,
SMEs, design educators and students," Mathur stressed.
Stael von Holstein, president of The Network with a Silver Lining,
who is currently working on developing a science and technology
park on the mainland, thinks Chinese designers are very talented
and poised to make great leaps.
missing factor, I think, is the industry's understanding of how
to judge what is a good idea and what is good design.There are
simply no parameters by which they can say this is good or bad,"
von Holstein pointed out.
delegates agreed that good educational reforms are imperative
for supplying the right talent to drive what could well become
a very prosperous design market.
Lawrence, president of Corporate Design Foundation, Boston, who
works with companies and universities to raise the awareness of
executives and students about the value of design, uses Samsung's
internal design school to illustrate the importance of education
in developing fresh talent.
chairman spent 4 years and millions of dollars setting up an internal
school to educate their best designers.These designers, in turn,
have headed up the design group and moved into management positions,
showing that Samsung's long-term investment has paid off.
educational reforms and investment, user focus and market research
are also very important in moving the design industry forward.
Whitney stated in his opening speech: "The main challenge
for Chinese design, I think, is not assuming that design is done
quickly and cheaply, but that design takes a little more time
and costs a little more to get a better view of the daily life
of users and use user-understanding as a new platform for innovation."
added that the rise of creativity in the United States actually
started in the 60s and 70s when Japanese products came in to take
a piece of the pie.
consumers will jump at the option of buying better things from
other countries," Whitney pointed out."In other words,
it was American consumers that dragged American companies into
doing good design.
China follows that same pattern it will be consumers that lead
the charge and the industry will have to follow eventually."
India, we face the same issue of designers not being able to understand
the culture and the needs of local requirement," said Mathur."So
in developing our own products we try to find out what issues
consumers face and develop products which have solutions to their
David Liang from Taiwan claimed that Taiwan is also too manufacturing
oriented and needs to make more effort to understand consumers.
Taiwan, ODM has come to stand for 'Own Development Manufacturing'
- they don't understand how to focus on users," said Liang.
have to understand the culture, the society and what people really
need," Liang continued."Innovative design should be
based on user-oriented product strategy. R&D technology can
do everything, but if you don't understand people's needs, then
importance of market intelligence has led some companies like
Baidu.com and McCann WorldGroup to set up special teams focusing
on customer behavior.
Yu, chief designer and director of Baidu.com's user experience
design department, claimed that his team is one of a kind.
is maybe one of the very few companies which have created a user
experience design department," said Guo."We're just
a 30-person team and everyday we have to research people we just
focus on people and what they do."
Chu, the future of China's design industry looks bright."Creativity
and innovation is propelled by incentives - or more bluntly, by
greed.And to provide the soft infrastructure for innovation to
flourish, you need a capital market, company law, and a venture
capital industry that is conducive to that type of development.
And we're getting there."
unlike its more developed neighbours South Korea and Japan, China
actually possesses some unique advantages its Asian counterparts
do not share.
this energy that is being put into creativity and innovation is
affecting something very seriously - the environment," Boustany
reminded the delegates."China has the opportunity to design
good environments, new cities and communities they way they should
be. I think this is one of the roles that China could very well
do and secure for everybody."
(China Daily 12/06/2005 page11)