How to Keep on Outdoing Yourself? | Knowledge@emlyon


On September 8, 2018, The United Auto Alumni Salon of Top-Class Business Schools in China was successfully held in Shanghai, creating a record of participants in its history. The MBA and EMBA alumni in presence were from emlyon business school, China Europe International Business School, Shanghai Jiao Tong University Antai School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management and the Peking University Guanghua School of Management in addition to applications from other world-leading institutions at home and abroad.

The theme of this year’s Salon was “Smart Cars: Core Competencies and Open Ecosystem”, which is specifically aimed at China's new problems and challenges as one of the world's largest and fastest growing auto market. In particular, the Salon formulated a necktie-free dress code, eliminated the gap between upstream and downstream suppliers and minimized the concerns on industry ranking in order to encourage brainstorm, focus on pain points of the industry and take a glance at the future.

As an academic tutor, emlyon business school also took part in this event. Zhou Ping, an participant of emlyon Global DBA and Senior Vice President of Hello Banma, a leader in vehicle transportation, gave a keynote speech titled “From Vehicle as A Sensor to Vehicle as A Human: A New Strategic Challenge Faced by the Auto Industry”. Full of interesting pictures, graphs and texts, it explored the relationship between people and cars in the future from a new perspective.

Prof. Wang Hua, Dean of emlyon business school Asia, was also one of the main founders of the United Auto Alumni Salon. This time, as a guest speaker, he reviewed the contents, key points and challenges of the discussion throughout the day and raised intriguing questions for everyone to think about. He encouraged companies to embrace changes with a more open and inclusive mindset. Participants from leading carmakers, internet tech giants, car intelligent service operators and suppliers as well as alumni from major business schools attended the Salon and brought back worthwhile takeaways.

The Cross-Disciplinary Developments of the Auto Industry Deserve Reflection

Before his graduation from CEIBS MBA Program in 2002, Zhou Ping had studied and worked in Japan. With a background in computer science and proficient in Chinese, English and Japanese, he is always concerned about integrated circuit, semiconductor and internet ecosystem. After graduation, he has been involved in onboard electronics, maps, navigation and other segments, and has supported major strategic M&As. In the context of the internet, he has restlessly tried to integrate the relationship between people and cars.  He is also invited to make keynote speeches at leading automotive forums on a regular basis.

Zhou is concerned about the trends of China's manufacturing industry. When everyone is building internet terminals, he believes that the car making industry needs also to embrace the internet. However, the global automobile manufacturing industry is incompatible with the internet based on its fundamental corporate culture, with enormous gap in professional culture. Therefore, Zhou wants to further explore the subject of organizational culture, in particular, the problems of organizational culture changes in both auto and internet sectors.

At present, he focuses on car products with internet mindset and such a cross-disciplinary segment will lead to a number of cultural concerns. Over the years, Zhou and his peers have encountered a variety of challenges, yet they believe that it is important to dig deep into the root causes. For example, if one’s blood pressure is high, there must be a condition with a certain organ in the body. He wants to find out that organ and the root cause of the condition. Therefore, he enrolled in the Global DBA Program at emlyon business school and started his DBA journey.

Zhou told us that his original research interest was Organizational Culture. But when he took part in the first module of emlyon Global DBA Program in Paris, he and his supervisor had an in-depth discussion on this topic. He immediately realized that he targeted at the wrong direction and was eager to turn to Professional Culture.

Zhou used to consider the difference in organizational cultures as that in people and that the stereotype stemmed from professional background led to path dependence. Therefore, he brought his confusion and interested topics to the classroom and discussed them with his supervisor and classmates. In fact, he challenged himself in spite of so-called “success”.

With further exploration, we found that Zhou’s existing goal is to disrupt the mindset of many industry practitioners. During crossover, a professional needs to abandon his/her fixed mindset, experience, lessons and paths and re-establish cross-border thinking. In past years, Zhou and his team have encountered almost all the challenges that the auto industry will face in the future and have figured out the solutions arduously. With past experience and lessons, he knows the problems that such a huge industry of 10 trillion dollars will meet in the next steps. Thus, for him, it is important to summarize and generalize the methodology and help his peers to bypass the potential pits in the future. He wants to coach executives how to identify promising talents.

Zhou is just beginning his DBA journey. There are at least three years of hard work to come, up to six years. As he is still confused about his research methodology, he went to Lyon, France visited his supervisor in mid-September for discussion and clarification of his research interest and approach. Zhou understands that his trade insights and capabilities have a certain influence in the industry. However, to be an industry leader requires the next level of literature review and academic expertise, which will take some time.

The Rise of Scholar-Type Executives

Prof. Wang Hua, Dean of emlyon business school Asia, has made great achievements in the academic research of the global automotive industry. He has published many papers in top journals and has served as a consultant for industry leaders over the years. With visible influence in China’s auto industry, Prof. Wang has unique experience and insights on how to connect theories to practices. He always stresses that study shall focus on both inputs and outputs and academic findings need to support the development of industries and businesses. It is pointless to throw yourself into researches that are only to be shelved and for the sake of research only.

Prof. Wang pointed out that the biggest distinction between emlyon DBA and EMBA is that DBA starts with identifying a problem in keen need for solution. First, clearly describe the problem (Well begun is half done). Then seek the best methodology to collect data in a qualitative or quantitative manner, or a combination of both, in order to find the right answer.

Therefore, when we face a future of high uncertainty and past experience cannot help the important strategic decisions in the future, it is critical for business executives to seek for answers through systematic methodology. The study on methodology in emlyon DBA Program will help you find the right key, which is not available in other stages of life or in other ways. For example, Zhou's current research topic focuses on car + internet, in particular, how to analyze the characteristics of talents from different industry backgrounds at a cultural level and how to break the boundary and cultivate cross-disciplinary talents. From the perspective of a scholar, this question can be addressed in terms of either organizational culture or innovation.

Having enrolled in DBA Program, Zhou is also eager to figure out systematic solutions to the challenges encountered in his career life, while formulating a system that can be launched and adopted in the booming industry.

According to Prof. Wang, though some executives succeed, they don’t understand the reason of such success; and the others fail, yet they have no idea about the root causes. Therefore, a systematic DBA program will help you:

First, reveal the underlying insights on past wins;

And second, extend the insights from a single case to more businesses, from the players in the same industry to more cross-sector organizations. It is a process of knowledge co-creation in a cutting-edge domain by working on the doctoral thesis. It will materially benefit not only the participant, but also his/her employer and the whole industry.

In today’s China and Asia, a number of business practices are emerging and expanding, capturing the attention of the whole world. In the context of the financial crisis in 2008, more executives and scholars turned to the East and its philosophies, cultures and other heritages, trying to figure out how leading Chinese companies have caught up and expanded across the globe. These findings are valuable to the future of China and Asia as well as worldwide academia and private sector.

Again, Prof. Wang stressed that it is extremely essential for today’s executives and industry leaders to stay current with global research updates and cutting-edge methodologies. Know both “how” and “why”. Above all, China is entering a stage of growing management practices. Researches focusing on China will provide new visions to global researches on management theories in near future, which in turn will offer guidance to practices. Chinese executives surely cannot afford to miss this time window.

Author: WhichMBA
Editor: emlyon Global DBA

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