Listening to public radio, the host was interviewing a college professor as to why China has brought more innovation and progress in many areas of its growth, leaving other countries behind. In particular they mentioned high speed rail, low energy vehicles, and construction. The entire show was based solely upon how China’s universities educate differently than America, as if somehow a graduate student would suddenly posses the knowledge, experience, and drive to make major changes in transportation, science, design, and construction.
When I hire American college students either as interns or graduates, what they have learned has little practical application as to the tasks that my business needs. Thus, we need to educate them on design (land surveying, civil engineering, planning and architecture), presentation techniques and the latest technology. What students do posses is a strong desire to make a difference in the world. I’m sure it is similar in China.
China has made explosive progress by the process required of American companies who must comply with their restrictions to do business in their country. Let me explain:
About 4 years ago we looked into designing neighborhoods in China. What we discovered is that an American company cannot do business directly in China. Instead of working directly, we would be required to enter into a partnership with an existing consulting firm in China. There is a problem with that requirement. If I would pursue business in China, I’d have to partner with a firm that did not have our talent, methods, or technologies we possessed. To work with an unknown firm would require us to share information that would have been exclusive to our firm, essentially training them in the strengths we took so long to accumulate. I figured that this would be a quick (and cheap) way their government could force American businesses to train their companies in our methods, and in most cases our advancements.
Why would a company with a competitive edge want to provide privileged information to gain business? What is there to prevent that “partnering” business to break off relationships once they drain the knowledge base? Certainly they do not hire us because we have a larger workforce.
American progress has been fostered by questioning why. Why is something being done this way? How can we make it better? This leads to innovation. Innovation was a major reason our country progressed more aggressively compared to countries that teach their students to think in only one way. China could see us as a knowledge base to farm information from our corporations wanting China’s riches.
China seems to present an image of more progress. By forcing partnerships to do business in China we may have taught their corporations our best secrets. “We” being not just the United States, but every other country with their top designers, scientists, and technologies sharing knowledge.
Once they have this knowledge and know-how, why would they need us? That is the foundational problem, and one reason I have not pursued work in China.
The American way is innovation – something which I’ve seen little of in the development of our land and the building of our housing by the largest of American corporations. We should be going back to the drawing boards to accelerate American innovation and technology, and this time, not hand over this competitive edge so easily.