Telling and retelling stories is one of humanity’s most durable characteristics: Harvard linguist Michael Witzel has argued that most of the world’s mythologies grew out of a single set of stories first told in Africa 130,000 years ago. Yet what is the future of corporate storytelling? Although our penchant for storytelling may not change any time soon, the storytelling used inside the corporation does seem to be shifting in two ways. First, storytelling is becoming recognized as a trainable skill. Second, and possibly more importantly, the Internet is making it increasingly difficult for companies to control a single version of their own story.
Bill Bishop, co-founder of the stock market news website MarketWatch and author of Sinocism, talks about how China’s relationship with the world has changed. In this interview, he shares insights on China’s ascendance to second-largest economy in the world, as well as some of the serious economic challenges it faces today, such as an aging society and rising debt, and the current backlash against globalization. But along with that, he also discusses the many bright spots–the emerging internet economy, for example–and the hazards of getting caught up in what can be a biased and negative news cycle mentality.
Executives have long understood the business value of a ripping yarn. Different consultancy companies will have their own take on what makes a good story. Yet whatever the scale of your literary ambitions, there are some fundamental rules seem to apply. First you start with good material and you need to identify what is and isn’t a story. A story is something that begins with a time-marker and is also always visual. Don’t use the “S” word. Don’t say “I just want to share a story with you.” Well, in business, that’s like death. Instead, say: I’ve had a really interesting experience. And remember to be sincere.
A fundamental generational change in attitude is happening: business people in China have started to question lavish banquets with too much bajiu, and new approaches to health and wellness are coming into vogue—particularly among the young, hip and urban. Rising with this trend is a multibillion-dollar fitness and food industry. Fitness apps are being downloaded by the tens of millions, and gyms are popping up almost everywhere you look in major cities. Market researchers predict that the gym, health and fitness clubs industry is to generate $5.81 billion, and that does not include sales of health food, which seems to be a craze all its own.
The Airlander 10, part plane and part airship, is the world’s longest aircraft in operation today. Roughly the size of a football field, it has a shape different from any airship of decades past. Developed by British manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles, the Airlander 10 can ascend from anywhere with no need for an airport or runway and maintain a capacity of transporting a large amount of goods. According to Stephen McGlennan, CEO of HAV, over 100 million pounds has been invested in the project and it is preparing another test flight in the coming Spring, after it failed in a August test flight this year.
Baidu, China’s largest internet search engine, is having a hard time after a college student named Wei Zexi died after mistaking an advertisement on Baidu for an experimental cancer treatment for medically reliable information. Baidu was then accused of being “unethical”, failing to clearly delineate paid advertisements from search results. Months later, the Nasdaq listed company reported its worst quarterly earnings. With the increased competition from domestic players like Tencent and Alibaba and the downward pressure on online advertising, which contributes to over 90% of Baidu’s revenue, it is crucial for Baidu to diversify its business.
Storytelling is a reliable way to reach audiences. According to storytelling experts, organizing stories in a form that connects to people’s feeling is an effective way to make information more memorable. But for sales people, telling their sales stories well is more challenging than for CEOs telling a company story—a sales person’s time is limited as the audience is under no obligation to listen to them for a long time; and they need to learn to tell the story throughout the entire sales process, from introducing themselves to managing customer relationships, and the focus of these stories will also vary by culture.
The Chinese economy faces some serious problems, including a slowing GDP growth, environmental degradation and financial disequilibrium. According to Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration, there are some specific solutions, such as making sure that opportunities for children are the same regardless of where in China and to whom they are born, making sure that the success of enterprises depends on the quality of what they sell and taxes are collected in a fair way and, finally, making sure that those who lead enterprises and communities do so for the benefit of their stakeholders.
Over the past 25 years, China has become the world’s preeminent manufacturer, churning out everything from running shoes to Apple products. Powering that ascent was heavy foreign direct investment combined with a seemingly inexhaustible pool of cheap labor. But now, as the Chinese economy slows, wages rise and the workforce atrophies, the decades-long manufacturing boom may be ending. To help deliver China from industrial decline, the Chinese leadership is betting on automation. However for Beijing to become the world’s robotic leader, there is an even more complex issue behind updating robotic technology: how to handle the displacement of large numbers of Chinese workers?
One day in October, 2015, a group of disgruntled investors gathered in Beijing to lodge a complaint: they had bought so-called wealth management products from a state-owned guarantor backed company that managed nearly $8 billion in assets, and which had collapsed later. Such defaults have been uncommon in China’s wealth management product space, but the now-gargantuan industry may pose a large risk to China’s financial system. Many risky aspects of the wealth management products industry make people worry about the possibility of a chain reaction similar to the 2008 financial crisis, when the US mortgage market buckled under similar strains.