Prepare for the Changing World: A Letter to My International Business Students



Dear all students:
It is the end of the semester for the class of International Business. I hope you have learned plenty of  knowledge and practices about conducting business internationally: You have learned the opportunities and challenges brought by international trade and globalization; you have understood why and how companies internationalize their business to remain their competitiveness; acting as as small businesses and non-profit organizations, you have exercised the process to export many wonderful products or service from the USA to the global markets; and you also have read many current news articles to be aware of the changing world today with the trend of anti-trading and anti-globalization which I believe to be a temporary setback for our society. At the end of the course, I hope you have developed an objective view about international business and may even expand your career into the global scale.  Although the course is over, I hope you can continue to search for an answer for this important question for yourself: how can I remain competitive in today’s changing world?

First all, we should be all clear based on we discussed in the semester: job lost today is mainly due to automation, not international trade. “The US did indeed lose about 5.6m manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010. But according to a study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, 85 per cent of these jobs losses are actually attributable to technological change — largely automation — rather than international trade”.[1]

Let’s remember the story of Kodak: In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just three years, they went bankrupt because the emergence of digital cameras. What happened to thousands Kodak employees in the past will happen to many other industries in the near future, because we are living in the 3rd and going toward 4th Industrial Revolution, driven by the growth of computation, artificial intelligence, and automation, “a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”.[2]

Even in the service industries, we see a tremendous shift of using technology, software, and artificial technology to replace human workers. McDonald’s and restaurant chains are using computer tablets as a solution for rising labor costs[3].  IBM Watson artificial intelligence can provide diagnosis for patients and offer legal advice for clients, faster and more accurate than doctors and lawyers[4].

In short, we are not competing with other people around the world, but competing with robots and computers. It is what face us today and nothing can prevent us from the use of technology to advance the world.  It sounds scary in a way because the job market today requires us having a lot more knowledge to be a competitive individual. I could not advice you what career you should go for a long-term job security, but I can say what you should do to become competent and ride the wave of technological innovation: You must be a creative and critical thinker, be flexible to adapt to changes, sharpen your skills and knowledge through continuous learning, and keep yourself informed with reliable information sources. And last, respect and collaborate with others. I hope that my suggestion will help you to identify a career which you are passionate about and become successful in. When you are prepared for the changes and equipped with innovative ideas, what globalization presenting to you would be more opportunities than challenges.

For those who graduate in December: My best wishes for your new endeavor and stay in touch with your college and your professors.

For those who come back in the Spring: Enjoy the winter break and see you around in the Spring!

[1] https://www.ft.com/content/dec677c0-b7e6-11e6-ba85-95d1533d9a62

[2] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/

[3] http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2016/11/29/thanks-to-fight-for-15-minimum-wage-mcdonalds-unveils-job-replacing-self-service-kiosks-nationwide/#51666a34762e

[4] http://www.businessinsider.com/watson-radiology-diagnosis-demonstration-2016-11


When Hi-tech Meets Low-tech

Recently, I’m working on a project to help a Chinese tissue culture company to break into U.S. market. Something totally different from my past supply chain experience,  but it’s quite an exciting experience for me to visit trade shows across the country to learn a new market and its customers.

I’m first of all surprised to see that nursery industry is a little bit “low-tech”  comparing to all those industries I have been worked with. I would think that U.S. has far more advanced in bio tech than China, but I was constantly told in the trade show that “tissue culture is too high tech to us.” Then I realized that many of the target customers, the growers, don’t provide emails in their business cards. I know emailing is my bad habit, but it surprised me that many are quite resistant to new way of communication when I live in the era of smartphone, Twitter and Facebook. Perhaps nursery industry is quite different from others so I need to adjust, or I should not consider those, who resist e-communication or social media, as the target customer because the tissue culture will be too high tech for them. Oh well.I might be too new for this industry to make comment, but I feel the frustration of when hi-tech meets low-tech.

One more thing blows out my mind is when Sales of some companies told me that: I’m Sales, not procurement (so, don’t talk to me). OK, then it’s not right, not only because of their impolite attitude. So, Sales don’t communicate to Procurement regarding using new product or adapting new technology? So, Sales never discusses with Procurement regarding what they’re looking for to be competitive in the market? So, Procurement will make their purchasing decision and Sales will try to sell whatever the Procurement develop? It seems that lacking of communication among “supply” and “demand” can be a huge potential issue for those companies, which indicates that they won’t be an ideal business partner as well.

Technology and communication are two essential components for a business to stay competitive; otherwise, newbies will soon catch up and get the lagged one out of the market.