Businesses in China may be missing out by not fully embracing opportunities to collaborate with colleagues and business partners, according to new research.
A report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has identified resistance to sharing information and a continued focus on hierarchies in the country.
While executives in China say they value collaboration – a powerful tool for company growth – the research has shown the concept is not always applied across enterprises.
Also the data shows that professionals in China are less likely to collaborate than professionals in other regions.
To gain a better understating of how business professionals collaborate in China, the Economist Intelligence Unit conducted an online survey of 183 senior executives in that country and carried out interviews with executives in fields as diverse as architecture, high-tech, food service, white goods and healthcare.
The research compares the survey with the findings of an earlier global report, Collaboration: Transforming the way business works, published by the EIU in 2007 and also sponsored by Cisco, which concluded that “the future belongs to those who collaborate”.
The latest report identifies the peculiarities of collaboration in China and areas in which business professionals there may wish to focus their collaboration efforts.
For example, the data reveals that there are considerable discrepancies in how management view collaboration.
Senior decision-makers are likely to believe that collaboration is commonplace across the firm.
However, the top executives tend to underestimate the barriers to teamwork and overestimate the extent to which more junior management are able to address such barriers.
As a result, actual collaboration is often much less frequent than senior managers believe.
In China, information hoarding is viewed as a barrier to collaboration by just 17 per cent of top executive respondents, compared with 41 per cent of respondents from lower tiers of management.
Unwillingness to relinquish responsibility to partners and co-workers, meanwhile, is considered a major problem by 40 per cent of not-top executives, compared with only ten per cent of top executive respondents.
“As China’s companies produce increasingly valuable, complex products, collaboration becomes even more important,” says Katherine Dorr Abreu, senior editor at the EIU.
“But for it to become part of company culture, top leadership must be aware of the real challenges which prevent collaboration within the firm.”
Although respondents in China say that collaboration is widespread, it is limited across geographies and functions.
Only 13 per cent of the executives surveyed in China collaborate day to day with co-workers across locations within their own organisation, compared with 35 per cent of those surveyed globally in 2007.
And only about 40 per cent collaborate with other functions on a daily basis, compared with 55 per globally.