Archive for the 'daily' Category

Why custom & social shopping will both work in China

My mom’s generation is a “lost fashion” generation. In her best youthful days, the country was going through the cultural revolution. Individualism was suppressed, not only in thinking and speech, but also in clothing. The whole country was clothed in gray, black, or army green. Any show of lace, color, or design was considered “corrupted capitalism life style”. When the revolution ended in mid 1970 after a decade, any fashion sense my graceful grandma put in my mom’s mind was washed clean.

Then came the introduction of “market economy with Chinese characteristics” – basically a re-branding of the free market. Then entered the first western movie. Then returned the memories of silk and embroidery. The interruption of fashion for ten years left almost all women at my mom’s age clueless. They adopted whatever they saw in the movies. Today the release of a Hollywood blockbuster in China is synchronized with US. In 1980s the Chinese were so behind that we were watching movies five, six years old, if not older. The few movies that passed the strict censorship became the golden rule for women all around. Color slowly returned to the streets. Many colors of the similar style.

In 1979 the single child policy was in place. The first batch of the single children found themselves at a crossroad when they entered their teens. Growing up the single child, with attention from six adults (parents, four grand parents), they were treated as individual, they were told they were special, until they left the home. Suddenly, they found they were among the hundreds of millions of other single children, who grew up being told the same thing. And to compete, they needed to stand out. Being different also included dressing differently.

However, the market at that time did not offer many choices. Large part of the movements in its society is driven by collective opinions. China is fundamentally a community based country. It is hard not to follow. Hence the waves of hot trends – trading stocks, buying real estate…Everyone is afraid of “missing out”. If the skinny jeans are in, you can barely find a pair of straight legs in fashion shops.

Comes the 21st century. The Web eliminates the time lag of information exchange with the outside. The accumulated personal wealth for the past three decades allow consumers to go way beyond the basics. The mighty production industry hums all day long to produce the fashion for Milan, New York, Tokyo, while saving enough raw materials and is spot on at copying the styles. Chinese consumers are buying the designs at a fraction of the price.

The variety of information and its easy accessibility through the Web provide the educated Chinese alternatives to the mass media; and giving them the space in their mind to form their independent thinking. While they sit in front of their computers to do so, they also lose the touch with real people, an element that was inseparable in their parents and grandparents’s lives. Fortunately, Web also provided them the venue. Before the air conditioner days, at summer nights the whole families would get out their small places and flock to the public parks and town squares to catch the cool breeze. The view of a whole square covered with people in every inch is still vivid in many people’s memories. They were talking, exchanging information, listening to the radio, sometimes flighting over the best spot. Now, the town squares are social networking sites, blogs, instant messengers.

The combined desire of keeping in touch and being an individual makes customized social shopping a natural fit for the Chinese consumers in their 30s and 20s. Teenage’s purchasing power is not to be underestimated, either. By limiting the social interaction to shopping, hopefully it will not draw unwanted attention (FB is blocked in China.). And by giving the consumers the power to customize based on template designs, and with access to the factories in the back yard, the cost of customization can be kept efficient enough to maintain mass market price. After all, the skyrocketing real estate price in cities is a towering shadow over the money earners, who are finding every possible way of quality but affordable living.

Examples of customized shopping:

custom jewelry



In China, this should be a perfect day – 十全十美. The Chinese charm may not carry all the way to the other side of the ocean ;-). So my day is not perfect. However, through the imperfectness I realized the following.


4 Skills CEOs Have That You Might Lack

From Business Insider

1. Superior issue discernment and listening capability.

In law school, students spend a lot of time on “issue spotting”. The skill set they are learning is to determine what comprises the critical issue of a conflict. In business, your ability to listen carefully will drive your ability to spot the real issue in any given situation. Identification of the right “issues” and leadership of their resolution will consistently put you ahead of the pack.

For senior management, identifying critical underlying issues and framing them well for others is a requisite skill. You need to cut through the spin, personal agendas and noise. To do this, you need to hear people out and listen carefully. Ask the right questions, because you need to understand what is important to them, what motivates them and what is driving them .

People will try and spin you or convince you of a specific point of view. Beyond recognizing that truth, you need to understand why they want to spin you and what is in it for them if they succeed in getting you to view the issue from their perspective. Senior management determines the underlying issue as well as the motivation of the person discussing the issue. You should always ask yourself where they are “really” coming from. Try to see through what they’re saying from a personal point of view to the broader organizational issues.

Colleagues will complain about co-workers and customers when they are really talking about the roles the people are playing. Flaws in process and communication are usually surfaced as complaints about individuals fulfilling their described duties. Don’t fall for “Sam is a knucklehead” as the complete issue (which while likely true, it isn’t the issue at hand). The issue at hand may actually be Sam’s position is in procedural or organizational conflict with the complainer’s position.

2. The capability to lead change without creating enemies

You will get noticed quickly if you are a source of change and progress. But it may not be the notice you necessarily want if the buzz is negative. Causing others to comfortably leave the status quo isn’t an easy aspect of leadership but is a very powerful one. Organizations lionize their positive change leaders. In fact, organizations tend to promote their positive change leaders ahead of all others. The change leaders who create enemies along the way will usually reap what they sow and will be done in by their adversaries.

In order to affect change, yet not create rumpled feathers along the way requires careful management. To accomplish this, you must consistently communicate to others how they can be part of making things function better. You must show them how to make things function better for the whole organization as well as function better for themselves. Yes, this involves some convincing and may even require compromise. And remember people will not be courageous.

If you’re leading the change, don’t expect people to jump on the bandwagon until it is clear that the bandwagon is rolling. They will jump on when it looks like you may have a winner. That’s ok. Just get them ready to join you once some momentum is clearly evident. Don’t expect colleagues to think of the changes required, or even help you lead it, but they can help you refine it. And they can help swing public support for the change you’re leading at a critical moment.

When it bubbles up to top management, the first questions will be “What is the change and who is bought in?” followed quickly by “Who is leading this?”

3. The judgment to choose your battles wisely and the courage to fight them

The ideal battle is one without opposition. If you dedicate time and effort to fight breast cancer or child pornography, you can do so knowing that there will be no named, organized or coherent opposition. No one will come out in favor of cancer or deviant behavior. That lack of opposition is a key component of a wisely chosen battle. For example, choose to lead a “quality improvement” initiative, over a cost cutting witch hunt. Avoid direct confrontation with organized opposition at all costs.

One might argue that the lack of opposition makes it less of a “battle”. Well, the effort against inertia will usually make it feel enough like a battle in most organizations. And in many organizations the opposition will often not identify itself explicitly. Either way, it pays to declare victory early and often to discourage opposition.

The best battles are ones against items that broadly cause headaches to multiple departments. Think of the customer renewal process that involves five groups that could be done entirely on line. Or the outsized customer inquiries into shipment date that could be fixed with more communication. Seek issues that annoy multiple departments. Recruit the affected departments to join the fight.

4. The ability to produce extraordinary results from ordinary people

So you’re assigned to manage a group of relatively ordinary performers and tasked with formidable challenges? Welcome to the world. There are a lot of ordinary performers. Getting them to produce extraordinary results will get you noticed while it propels you up the corporate ladder. So, do you crack the proverbial whip? You could…but that will likely only produce marginal improvement. It will probably produce simply more from ordinary people rather than extraordinary results.

It is fairly possible to get ordinary people to exceed their historical performance and perform impressively, while not easy to do on the face of it. The key isn’t getting folks to work harder, though this is helpful, the key is getting them to work smarter. For example, if you can get a group to go from making average decisions to superior ones you get a step change in overall performance. If you combine better decisions with incremental effort, you will see extraordinary results. To get colleagues to work smarter, you must create a culture within your group that instructs and enlightens individuals to consistently make better decisions. The essence of superior results is cumulative effort of better decisions and improved execution.

Peter Schultz, the CEO of Porsche, who turned around the company in the early 80’s wrote a book about this very subject. He felt that extraordinary people are by definition rare. And to get ordinary folks to produce extraordinary results one had to establish a leadership culture caused buy in to the bigger mission and better decisions. He also famous for saying that one should “plan democratically and implement like a dictator”.

A Sunday to catch up with China

This is probably the first Sunday for a long time that I spent the whole day inside, watching episode after episode of a Chinese talk show – A Meeting With Lu Yu (鲁豫有约), in which the show hostess interviews people from all lines of work. Many are public figures – movie stars, successful business people. There are also a fair amount of ordinary people. By listening to their stories, I suddenly felt how wide my 10-year knowledge gap is. Here are a few stories.

Two college graduates quit their office job and started a business – making and selling tofu.

A farmer adopted a abandoned baby who he picked up on the train. The boy was born to a Chinese mother and a foreign father, and was deaf. Over 17 years, the farmer and his family sacrificed almost everything – their own comfortable life, he and his wives’ health, and worst of all his three daughters’ education – to bring up this baby.

A young woman in her 20s opened a primary school to teach and take care of the “left-home kids”. In this nation-wide economic evolution, many parents left their youngsters back at home while they went to bigger cities looking for higher-paid jobs. From 30 students at the beginning, she now has over 300. Her mom cooks for the kids. Her grandma grows vegetables for the school. She was deeply in debt and once thought about closing down. In the morning she sent all the kids home. After lunch she came back to the school, all the students were sitting in the classroom waiting for their teachers.

An interview with Li Ao, a Taiwanese writer and thinker.

An editor turned into a collector, who opened and managed the first profitable private museum in China.

After listening their stories and many others, I thought:
a) The best usage of money is not judged by how happy it makes you feel, it is judged by how much people benefit from the spend of it.
b) The only way to success is to do what you feel passionate about. And no matter what that passion is, you will succeed in it and enjoy every minute doing it.

The world is full of wonderful stories and amazing people like these. Why should our main media be obsessed with a few stars, and especially their peculiar and sometimes bad behaviors?

the power of grassroot media

there are a few videos I found on Chinese video sharing site – tudou (potato)

a story of a 10-year kid in a remote village, abandoned by his parents, walked five hours every day to and from school, took care of his 70-year-old grandpa, and could eat two meals a day. His story was first discovered by a volunteer network.

demonstration of Japanese teamwork!

AppNation – Day 1

Gavin Newsom (SF Mayor) – developers making apps based on the government data are doing government work without government money, thus helping to solve the budget deficit. SF has an initiative of making more such data available online. He also solicited the development of a campaign app for the run of Lieutenant Governor.

Advertise on the social network the socialist way

Day 1 – I watched Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A love story. Takeaway: democratize economy, share the wealth.
Day 2 – I was at an Adobe/Omniture event, listening Facebook talking about advertising. I asked, “What the control layer for users to opt out? What % of users opted out?” “Users can’t opt out of ads. Sorry I don’t have the percentage.” I can see this was a popular question.

At that moment, I got it. The only sensible way to use my friends’ network for advertising is that I, as a content generator, viral marketer, signed member, get a cut of that advertising revenue! For example, I was at beach, drinking a beer, looking out at the sea (just an example, in reality I can’t drink :-). I took a photo of the beer in my hand, with the blue sea and sunny sky as the background, posted it on FB, wrote – “enjoy a beer at beach”. Right after I updated my status, a small button appeared next to the photo, the message next to the button read, “Hello, you posted a picture of beer brand X. Would you like to link this picture to its product page? As a result, you will earn $0.25 FB buck for each click you generate.” What would I most likely do? Yes. What’s better than drinking a beer at beach while letting the machine generate some cash? No-brainer. If I’m earning money this way, I can’t complain about all the ads targeted at me because of the personal information I provided.

call it social advertising. crowd-sourced ads.