It's Not Your Father's China!
Several years back, PROWAY was working with an Italian company to help localize several assessment tests. We needed to develop a marketing strategy and a visual image for the new tests. It so happens that my younger brother Chuck is a graphic designer and had contributed to PROWAY marketing over the years. Our “Break the Box!’ logo was his brain child as was our original Yin and Yang logo.

Chuck had worked for a time at IBM in their highly creative marketing department and had come up with the slogan – It’s not your father’s IBM! It was not a far leap to create a new marketing campaign, entitled “It’s not your father’s China!”

He found a picture of a wistful young Chinese woman – obviously upwardly mobile and a successful professional – sipping an expensive Starbuck’s coffee somewhere in downtown Shanghai while reflecting on the next steps in her busy life.

What our imagery was saying is that there have been major demographic, sociological and economic changes in China over the past 75 years. Even China has moved from a male-centric oligarchial world to a diverse society where youth, intelligence and energy count as much or more than gender in getting ahead.

What motivates the newest generation currently entering the workforce is different from their fathers and their grandfathers. Two generations ago China was coming out of decades of internal strife, civil war and foreign occupation. Chairman Mao sought to provide security to that generation of cadres in large, all-encompassing state enterprises.

Twenty years later the children of the 70’s were finding jobs in foreign enterprises that crowded into China in the wake of Deng Xiao Ping’s reforms and opening to the West. Security was passé – the new generation was interested in achievement and recognition – and what gave them the greatest face with their families, friends and class mates was working for a Fortune 500 Company.

The newest generation of the 90’s has been raised in comparative comfort. It is computer savvy with smart phones and a life centered around high tech. Xi Jin Ping’s children are less concerned with status and more interested in self realization, exploring the world around them. They are equally at home in cafes in Shanghai, Paris and New York and are wildly attracted to famous brands like Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo purchased in shops from Hong Kong, to Bangkok even to Milan.

Each generation has its own needs; what motivates one does not motivate the other – values clash and represent a challenge – particularly in a world where the one child family has been a norm for three decades. Human resource practitioners have been challenged to figure out how energize each generation. We had thought at the time that the tests we were helping to norm would be useful in assisting companies to understand the needs of the 90’s generation.

We ended up being disappointed but we added one more guru, Abraham Maslow, to our list of important personages shaping PROWAY’s approach to human resource solutions. This accumulation of personages, approaches and theories makes us uniquely positioned to helping foreign companies working in China to cross the void and successfully operate in this vibrant new culture.

Reflecting backward, we began as a company that focused on experiential learning and the use of personality to build teams and develop personal self-awareness. Our first gurus were Carl Jung and John Dewey.

We later applied these concepts to our leadership programming and upgraded it using Daniel Goleman’s theory of emotional intelligence as a framework for personal development. We have gone beyond Jung and Maslow and recently introduced many of Paul Ekman’s concepts concerning raising social awareness.

We have gone through a similar process in growing our approach to organizational development. We were impressed with the works of Daniel Denison and Jim Collins, and they have shaped our approach to building corporate cultures. Most recently we have become deeply involved in finding ways to improve employee engagement and have embraced the ideas of Pop Culture guru John Story.

So, yes, it is not the same China it was 50 year’s ago and most certainly it is not the same PROWAY that we started in Shanghai in 1998. Social psychology – like high tech – has grown rapidly in the past two decades, allowing us to better support human resource practitioners and general managers puzzled about the next steps they need to take to energize their employees.

Meet Dr. Gene Dorris