Sunday, November 15, 2009

Where is the next Nokia & the next Finland?

Last year things weren't rosy for the big Taiwanese manufactures like TSM who were operating at a fraction of their capacity.

True is that this year things look much better, Acer became n. 2 PC manufacturer, only after HP and companies like Amtran (Vizio) are really making inroads in US markets. HTC is embracing Android, proving that was nothing wrong with the split strategy of Win-Handset manufacturers.

However, Taiwanese companies seem to be taking very seriously last year decline, realizing how fast things can turn south. And, for a change, they are doing something about it.
We have witnessed how companies like TSM are shifting their production and their strategy from low margin , capital intensive products to new ones such as LEDs and solar cells, trying to conquer a market, a market that in the next decades could be huge. A similar process is happening with HTC or Acer or in general all over the island.

While this is happening, Taiwan is learning that innovation nowadays is not solely technological innovation and the limitations of the cluster and the industrial complex model (although they have been hugely successful with Hsinchu (maybe the only really successful artificial cluster ...). You can see, almost everywhere that iniciatives around creativity, involving users, market based innovation are beginning to be explored.

Innovation has its share of macroeconomics and methodologies, but having said that, one must recognize the huge importance of cultural factors and knowledge flows. This is now, more relevant than ever, putting together a bunch of diverse industries of building mass, has never been, but in this connected world it is not a guarantee of success. If you are not convinced, just took a look at all the European efforts and try to name 3 - only 3 - world class innovations (products/services in the market making money) that came out of them.

Asia has a problem in this aspect. Recalling a nice lunch a few days ago with a colleague, talking about Asia, he was explaining his experience: You establish a collaboration project with them and then you begin the first meetings, you always face somebody in front asking you: well tell me! - you get puzzle and tell your partner that it is not about that, it is about collaboration, then, again, you face, ok... so, tell me!
We all had this experience. However, Taiwan is somewhat different, with a sizeable class educated in America and political leaders with advance degrees and working experience outside Taiwan (how different from my country where political leaders don't even speak English and in the case they do it is completely indecent ... and of course you can be very happy if they have a bach degree ...) they are in a unique position to leverage a new brotherhood relationship with China.

Yes, cultural factors count in innovation, now they count a lot, but of all the Asian countries (India is a different story) Taiwan seems to have the hunger, the willingness, the capacity and the political will not only to talk the talk but to walk the walk.