What keeps the CEO up at night? For high-potential managers in the Thunderbird International Consortia, the conversation starts with a single word: China.
The managers shared their biggest challenges and concerns April 19 in the opening session of the Consortia, a 10-day executive education program that brings together a diverse mix of companies and professionals in the same classroom.
The latest Consortia program includes teams from eight multinational organizations: Delphi, Fluor Corporation, Henkel, Parker Hannifin, SK Group, Standard Bank, State Farm and Vitro. Although program participants represent a broad range of companies and industries, they quickly found common ground in the brainstorming session led by Thunderbird Professor Michael Moffett, Ph.D., the Consortia’s academic director. Much of the talk focused on China, the world’s fastest-growing economy.
Participants discussed market entry in China, increased consumer consumption in China, joint ventures in China, talent retention in China and intellectual property protection in China. They also discussed increased competition from China as state-owned Chinese companies push outward into new markets.
“China consumes roughly 45 percent of the world’s copper,” Moffett told the participants. “That’s just one example. This market cannot be ignored.”
Here’s a partial list of other challenges on the minds of Consortia participants:
1. Shortage of engineers: “The talent has been moving toward the financial service sectors with their big rewards,” Moffet said. “The result has been a shortage of science and engineering expertise.”
2. Talent retention: “It’s not a good investment to train a local worker and then have that person walk across the street and work for a competitor,” Moffett said.
3. Acquisition integration. “Mergers and acquisitions involve digestion of complex corporate cultures and systems,” Moffett said.
4. Regulation: “Government help sometimes turns into government interference,” Moffett said. “What will it be for your company?”
5. Commoditization: Intellectual property theft sometimes turns unique products and services into commodities. Other companies face new competition from online startups offering cheaper versions of their products and services.
6. Game-changing innovation: “When you think about the senior leadership of an organization and what keeps them up at night, it’s got to be waking up one morning and confronting radical new innovation that completely undermines their entire business,” Moffett said.
7. Green initiatives: What is a company’s duty to the environment?
8. Changing demographics: “Needs are very different by generation and by ethnicity,” Moffett said.
9. Maturing markets: Growth opportunities in Western Europe, the United States and other maturing markets are sometimes difficult to find.
10. Cross-cultural ethics: Ethical standards sometimes vary in different markets, Moffett said. “When we operate in each other’s markets, how do we find common ground?”
Video 1: Watch on Tudou.com in China (2:49)