The global trip to China provided the opportunity to visit nine different companies during our two-week stay. To be completely honest, at the beginning of the trip, I thought visiting nine companies was going to become somewhat redundant. That said, when it was all said and done, I was very thankful for the depth and breadth of the exposure, as it enabled me to hone in on the trends that seemed to be impacting Chinese businesses the most, both generally and within specific industries.
The trip gave me an appreciation for the way in which certain things can be incredibly similar in an international market, while others can be remarkably different. If my work ever requires me to operate internationally, or if I find myself at a global company, I now recognize the need to invest time getting to know the nuances of doing business in other countries, and I have a frame of reference for how things can be similar and different at the same time.
It was interesting to hear a lot of the same language and methods that we use in consumer insights in the United States being used to describe the work being done in China. We heard phrases such as “jobs to be done” and “first moment of truth,” and we heard them talk about trying to capture system 1 thinking through research. At the same time, we heard about the exceptional pace of change in the Chinese market. During our visit, P&G explained that while they may launch a new product every 6-12 months in the US, they launch a new product every 4.5 days in China. While the lessons learned on this trip were specific to China, simply seeing firsthand how different an international market can be is a lesson that can be applied much more broadly.
Even if a company doesn’t operate internationally, or if my position at a global company doesn’t require me to work with the global team or consumer, there can be valuable lessons in understanding foreign markets. The trip inspired me to reconsider certain preconceived notions and assumptions about the way business is done. While I understand much of the difference between business in China and the US is dictated by public policy, economics, culture, etc., I also couldn’t help but wonder how some of their practices might play out in the US. Would attempting to push out a new product every week be possible here, and if so, would it work? Perhaps in most cases the answer is no, but nevertheless it’s a good reminder not to dismiss a new idea or way of doing things simply because it’s unfamiliar.