Poorly designed in China

Car Magazine is one of my favourite magazines. (Britain’s oldest monthly motoring magazine.)
The magazine is renowned for its photography and innovative design.
But for me it was their writing that won me over.

A couple of months ago I read an article in Car Magazine by Ben Oliver about his test drive of two Chinese domestic car brands: the Great Wall Haval H5 and Geely. The verdict? Here’s Ben: “To the relief of those in the West and the fury of the Chinese Government, most Chinese car makers have learnt little from the established car makers that have been forced to partner with them to get access to the Chinese market, and most are still at least a decade away from producing a globally competitive car.”

While staying on the same topic (i.e. why are some things poorly designed in China), let me tell you about a fantastic book written by Paul Midler titled “Poorly Made in China.” It won a number of important prizes since it came out (e.g. The Economist’s book of the year in 2009), and it has been called a must read for anyone doing or wanting to do business in China today.

One of the most interesting observations in Paul’s book, for me, was this: “It was somewhat telling that, even at the height of the export boom, China did not have a single school of product design worth mentioning.”

So what are the common threads between Ben Oliver’s article and Paul Midler’s book? How much time do you have? Not much? Ok, here’s three things:

a. caring is hard;
b. caring “taste buds” are not universal;
c. caring requires a commitment to resisting the very things that often seem to drive the culture of success—things like haste, greed, and deception.

Quality and design alone may not always translate into business success. But they do tend to deliver something even more scarce: a good night’s sleep. Especially in the long run. If you’re selling something, anything really, can you avoid thinking about quality and design? There is nothing wrong with selling products and/or services, or even with making tons of money while doing so. There is something terribly wrong, however, with selling products and/or services that you know are not even remotely worth their price.

Nov 12, 2013

P.S. I’m not including the link to the website of Car Magazine simply because it does the magazine little justice.