How to run a truly international company
Books about successful technology companies are usually written by the entrepreneurs who founded the companies. It is truly remarkable for a book about a company which has grown from nothing to one of the largest computer companies in the world, written by an employee with a HR background and another employee with a diversity background. However, that is what we find with The Lenovo Way: Managing a Diverse Global Company for Optimal Performance, by Gina Qiao and Yolanda Conyers, suggesting that the key features of the company are at least as much tied up in its attitude towards employees and diversity as they are in the actual products the company sells.
The book describes a company which began with a group of Chinese scientists who had no commercial experience. Starting by renting out their expertise, then becoming distributors for international computer brands, then creating a Chinese-language motherboard, Legend Computers gradually grew to a position of dominance in the Chinese market before changing its English name to Lenovo and turning its ambitions towards a global market.
Many international companies have suffered culture shocks trying to take over Chinese companies; this book described the culture shocks Lenovo faced digesting the acquisition of the IBM personal computers business. A typical multinational company has a headquarters and dominant culture in one country; Lenovo has chosen not to pursue that route. It has adopted English as its language of businesses, requiring a significant sacrifice on the part of its founders and original staff. In different parts of the world, local culture prevails, rather than a monolithic head-office-imposed culture.
This book describes one way in which a truly international company can succeed, but it requires a lot of trust-building and willingness to sacrifice one’s own interests. According to the authors:
“We don’t just say nice words about cultural diversity; we live it. That is the Lenovo Way.”