China, Collectivist Culture, and Organizational Success

“Huawei people, especially the leaders, are destined to work hard for a lifetime and to devote more and suffer more than others.” – Ren Zhengfei, President and Founder, Huawei.

Huawei, based in Shenzhen, is one of the largest telecom companies in the world (with 2010 Revenues of $28bn) and the single largest such company in China.  In this Harvard Business Review post (hat tip: Brian Pan) by China-based consultant, Ruxiang Jiang, the author questions whether the work ethic at Huawei, and in China in general, will be enough to propel that country into 21st century economic leadership.

A key quotation:

A collective culture is great for rapidly building an organization from scratch. But too often, companies with collective approaches continue to disempower individual employees and devalue their intellectual contributions.

As would many in the West, I tend to agree with Mr. Jiang’s conclusions.  The enormous size of China’s labor force, which Mr. Jiang does consider, could push off China’s day of reckoning for some decades, however.  One important question is how deeply business culture in other parts of the world would be influenced by such Chinese success, in the meantime.


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