Ok, I didn’t blog about my visit whilst in country….long story. But know that the result of my week long visit to support my colleagues on the project emerging there was well worth the investment.For one, I had the good fortune of meeting in person, One Global Economy President Moustafa Mourad. If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you know I’m a big fan of One Economy and that fandom spills over to OGE and Moustafa too. Moustafa is a knowledgeable gentleman who prefers suspenders and bow ties… He claims ping-pong skills potent enough to defeat anyone. Nevermind he’s doing so while standing in the home country of the 2001, 2005 and 2007 World Table Tennis Champion Wang Liqin! I did get a chance to challenge that prowess towards the end of our visit, and though he did beat me, it certainly was no trouncing. He won by a modest one point… Anyway, as I said in previous posts, this visit was in support of an emerging project we have underway that aims to uplevel the employability and increase the moral of farmers who have lost their lands due to rapid urbanization in major Chinese cities. Our visit’s purpose was to introduce Moustafa and his OGE team to our friends in the government including those who run the current program set up to assist the farmers in the Chengdu area. And despite struggles with language and culture as well as some surprises we hadn’t planned for, we were pleased last week when we received word that the Chinese officials were impressed enough with our initial pitch to solicit a detailed OGE proposal on how they would address the issues identified. I can’t get into too many specifics about what those issues were just yet, because we’re still negotiating the proposal details, but from the tenor of the discussions I’m reasonably confident we’ll have something to show later this year. This delay is typical of our Community Solutions projects. Unlike the old days, when an multinational could throw a bunch of cash at a problem, grab a quick headline for the deed and walk away with the good news hit, our time investments are like investing for retirement: we have to accept that the investment is going to take a while before it produces the return we seek. Indeed some of our projects could cause old PR veterans to hearken for the good old days: our average project life cycle is two years. In fact, some of our projects have been going on for the last four years. I haven’t reviewed this stat lately, but I think that average life cycle is on the rise btw. Especially as our projects get more ambitious. Still, the longer time investment equals greater relationship building. And that certainly has its plusses. We get deeper into the community for one. The community partner we’re working with really gets to know us, which breeds….no, not contempt, but camaraderie and a sense that we’re really there to help solve the issue, not just grab the PR headline. Still, for an MNC like Intel, which is used to short lifecycles and constant change, our long project lifecycles can try the patience of our internal partners: the business groups we engage internally to design our solutions. After all, these people, the solution architects, business development managers (who we rely on sometimes for on-the-ground project management and relationship building), and engineers are used to “Intel speed”, which by design produces rapid results in short time periods. “Intel speed” is needed to compete, lead and win in the fast-pace, ever-changing world of high tech. But our projects don’t move that way. Whereas Intel speed may be akin to crunk dancing, our projects resemble a slow waltz. Both are beautiful to look at, but the latter requires longer attention spans. That’s not to say our internal partners have attention deficit disorder (ADD) or that our projects bore these poor peoople to death – indeed, they are often happy to work on our projects because they offer both a change of pace and an opportunity to work on something totally foreign to what they’d normally work on. But sometimes it takes extra effort to keep their attention on a project that appears to them to be moving at tree sloth speeds, especially when – and this frequently happens – Intel business groups reorganize, reinvent their strategies, shift people around or change focus altogether. Which is why working with an organization like OGE – an NGO with core competencies closely aligned with our own – is such a pleasure. Their understanding of community development speed allows them to chill around the notion that a single meeting, or an investment to fly three people across the planet, may not meet the expectations set prior to the trip. Which is exactly what happened in China. All us Westerners knew there’d be cultural differences influencing the rhythm of our meetings whilst in China, but really, they had a major impact on our progress. It all worked out, as I’ve said, but it’s been a big eye-opener and an invaluable lesson. Lessons that I’m sure will continue as we work with our new Chinese friends to add value to what already is a laudable community development effort.
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