Over two weeks have passed since I came back from the trainee module in China. Before this trip I had been twice in China, if you count a short stay in Hong Kong. So I kind of knew what to expect: at least one travelers' diarrhea to lose those couple of extra kilos before summer. China was what I had expected and at the same time not at all.
To give you a little bit of background, the aim of our two weeks in Beihai, Guangxi, was to divide us into four groups and work on different shared value creation projects. The first project relating to Ancient Paper Making has been shared by Björn in his post ”Reflections on decision making”. The second project was related to bio-fuels and the third project to a forest farm.
My team analyzed the business environment around Nanle village in order to find possibilities to develop and support new business opportunities in the village. To give you some background to Nanle, please see Rethink magazine 2012 on pages 28-29. The time we spent in the village was a real eye-opener. As my fellow teammate Artur puts it: I'm sure every member of our project team still thinks about our time in Nanle. We had a chance to talk with different people; we learnt their view of the world, problems and concerns. We got a picture about existing community problems, saw different culture and a way of life. All of us realized how important it is to build proper relationships with local community around our operations in different parts of the world.
Everyone can imagine how difficult it is to operate in a different country with a totally different cultural background. How much can we affect the surrounding communities of our operations? In Guangxi our two-week projects contributed to themes on which there are teams working on daily, helping the community to make their life better. I really appreciate their work. One of the key learnings was that issues that seem easy to fix from where you are located are highly complicated when you are dealing with a different country and culture. This applies of course to big issues but you will face it with small everyday things as well.
The second thing understood there, is the importance of making an effort and not waiting for someone else to do it for you. A good example is the cake lady as we call her. She lives in Nanle and makes her living by baking cakes for birthdays, weddings, housewarming parties etc. As she bakes at home and delivers the cakes by her scooter, there is a limited amount of cakes she can sell. About ten years ago she started the business because she felt responsible for her family after her father's death. While having several jobs she saved the money to be able to take a baking course in Nanning. Her persistence is admirable. Last week we heard that SE Beihai office bought 20 cakes from the cake lady for a company happening increasing her annual sales by 5-10%. This is shared value creation in action!
Did my world get any smaller? At least my respect towards how cultural differences affect the work in different parts of the world has grown.
Or maybe it was just me getting bigger. Contrary to my expectations I didn't get any travelers' diarrhea. So see you at the gym!