China is Apple's second largest and fastest growing market and American firms are eager to be part of it, but on Monday Apple apologized to Chinese consumers for consumer-unfriendly warranty practices.
Apple's ability to innovate is decreasing, forcing them to rely more on customer relations in China than on rolling out the 'newer and better.' If they are to survive and thrive there, they must solidify relationships, not only with consumers but with the government as well.
By either not fully understanding, or not giving enough importance to the Chinese relationship concept they call guanxii Apple lost ground, putting themselves in a position of reaction rather than proaction.
In today's increasingly global economy, it is no longer enough to sell perception of sincerity and integrity; we must live it through and through if we are going to build strong, lasting relationships, and grow our businesses. It may be necessary to re-examine our values and how we convey our belief in them, to those we teach and train, both personally and professionally.
Why? Because if we don't, we can get careless and slip as Apple apparently did. Perhaps they were arrogant, as the Chinese media claimed; at any rate, they did not take seriously enough their responsibility for standing behind their warranties.
As globalization increases, the need increases for producing, not only quality products and services, but an unprecedented level of quality individuals and policies to sell and maintain them.
In the case of Apple's apology, they broke three of the five requirements for successful business endeavors with China, that Barbara Wang mentions in her book, Chinese Management: 5 Critical Differences Apple lost face, neglected to maintain the relationship (guanxii), and broke harmony.
While these elements may seem strange or even silly to Americans for whom the highest value has been the bottom line, no matter what we have to do to increase it, it is important to remember that we are attempting to play now on the Chinese playing field where success is based more communally than individually.
While Gen X and Baby Boomers may have grown up with the 'winning is all that matters' philosophy, that won't work with succeeding generations. What and how we teach them, moving into a shifting world order, will determine their future.
In "How to Prepare Our Youth to Succeed in the Emerging Global Middle Class," I give an overview of ways we can inculcate the very real values of future success into our lives so that they will become what we do, and what we are, as well as what we say.
The success of future generations depends on it, and the time to start teaching them is now. And while we're doing that, we have to teach ourselves, working hard to change our paradigm from rewarding disparately the top levels of commerce at the expense of the middle; we have to become more inclusive -- not because we're forced to, but because inclusivity creates a 'win-win' result.
Rewarding the middle class improves loyalty and stability; equally including women provides balance, loyalty and a wider market; bringing in more diversity provides a wider range of perspective, loyalty and increased market share.
A more communal, integrity-based way of thinking isn't 'giving in to them,' it's just good common sense for the American way of life. And, in the end, we all do have to make it together. Globally.