Finally people are starting to face their fears of China as the next super-power of the world. Asia, especially China and India, offer slow-growth first-world nations like Australia, the USA and the UK, the most amazing opportunity for growth that we have seen for many years; yet we have been somewhat reluctant to respond. Some say for good reason, others say we need to overcome the fear that uncertainty and the unknown bring and get real about the growth in Asia and the wide range of economic opportunities available.
There is safety in numbers, it seems
A group of leaders from Australian businesses made the journey to China with Prime Minister Julia Gillard early April 2013, to sign a deal with the Chinese government that would allow them to trade in Yuan. They reported that the negotiations were uncharacteristically relaxed and open. The group included Andrew Forrest (who organised the meeting), Tony Shepherd, Kevin McCann, Lindsay Fox, Michael Chaney, Gail Kelly, James MacKenzie, Nicholas Moore, Alan Joyce and Mike Smith. Read AFR's report here:
Hear stories from three of these leaders
Last year I spoke with Kevin McCann, Mike Smith and James Mackenzie who were amongst this China delegation about the opportunity that Asia presents for Australia and what we need to do to a take advantage of it. Their views and suggestions are included in my book Stepping Up : Lead culture change for diversity and growth in the Asian century.
Also in Stepping Up I outline the implementation challenges that we face in trying to build stronger economic relations with Asian nations. The most significant challenge is not overcoming the fear, but our relatively poor level of diversity in the leadership of our organisations: that is, in both business and society.
Greater diversity - especially cultural diversity - would help to build cross-cultural awareness, and prepare us to be more Asia-ready in terms of business and interpersonal protocols. We would better appreciate the time frame and processes required for establishing trusting and enduring relationships between partners that will increase our effectiveness and productivity in the region.
There are no permanent or immovable barriers to a nation's growth and prosperity if its leaders are prepared to step up and make change happen and if the people who follow these leaders are willing to make the journey also.
Stepping Up calls for the need for a private-public partnership to get social change happening in Australia to allow greater diversity to become a reality. Perhaps the April visit to China is the beginning - but we need to see much more cooperation at all levels of our society.
Author: Pamela Young