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外國人在台灣:寫給奄奄一息的台灣製造業


Translation by Jon C. of White Goldfish article: Foreigners in Taiwan – One Brand of Advice for Taiwan’s Dying Manufacturing Industry

 

mark stocker

Mark Stocker, DDG.

馬克(Mark Stocker史孟康)是品牌顧問跟策略分析師。

過去20年來,他曾經協助超過一百多家的台灣公司進行品牌推展跟市場行銷。身為DDG品牌顧問公司領導,在幫助台灣企業尋找新市場機會中扮演著活躍的角色。馬克強烈主張台灣應該發展自己的國際商業品牌定位。

馬克認為台灣正面臨著嚴重的危機。

假如台灣一線國際品牌業績的表現反應了景氣好壞,那麼台灣麻煩大了。台灣的教育系統,商業型態跟政治文化曾經提供了硬體製造業時期勝出的公式, 但是這段黃金歲月就算還沒有結束,應該也快到尾聲了。IT硬體的製造毛利如今掉到了3%左右, 正應了那句毛三到四。

最近有位失望的外國員工離開了台灣,他寫的文章在臉書上引發大家熱烈討論, 請參考FB連結。他認為在台灣的工作環境不利於創新。後來他想在台灣創業卻遭遇到困難。他抱怨政府對於新創沒有支持, 企業保守僵化, 台灣的畢業生則是缺乏創意。

馬克看到這篇文章在臉書激發的種種回應,從事台灣的品牌顧問這麼久, 那他自己如何看待台灣企業的創新與改革呢?

“我想你會同意,這不是一個容易回答的問題。”馬克說。”一部分是這個問題牽涉到很多因素,另一部分是台灣的情勢仍舊在變動。如果把這個討論過於刻板的簡化分析並一併套用給所有人,對於許多正在嘗試改變的人們或企業組織不太公平。”

“但是關於台灣今日的企業改革與創新,根據我的經驗簡單歸納,台灣企業創新主要受制於三個嚴重的阻礙。一是儒家的價值觀,二是OEM/ODM心態, 三是教育系統。這三個重要因素影響了各種規模的企業,即使每一家公司的內部狀況不太一樣。”

馬克分析:“大致把創新分成兩種,突破式創新跟剝削式創新。突破式創新是指激進地發明並且冒險採用全新的想法, 全新的產品跟全新的策略。而剝削式創新是漸進地延伸已經存在的思維,主要著重在改良現有的產品跟策略。”

馬克補充 :“所以我們談到創新的時候要注意我們說的是突破式創新還是剝削式創新。台灣很會剝削式創新,但是在突破式創新的表現令人搖頭。“在商業景氣一片不振的大氣候下,馬克呼籲現在是該改變的時候了。企業主應該轉變,改變傳統由上到下的領導方式,改變只會衝量衝業績,改變純粹依靠價格跟出貨速度來當賣點。他也呼籲員工應該要更加負責任更勇敢地去做決定與發想。

DDG的網站上,馬克常常用自己的部落格分享想法,直截了當。以下是他對於勞資雙方的關係提出的一些意見。

“簡單來說,台灣的老闆對員工並不滿意,台灣的員工也對老闆不高興。這個問題蠻嚴重的。不只是對台灣個別公司的競爭力,也對於台灣這個國家品牌的競爭力造成衝擊。這樣的勞資文化阻礙了公司的發展,尤其是正當台灣的中小企業特別需要進步跟轉型的時候。”

這就帶到了馬克所提到的台灣企業面臨的三大阻礙: 第一是儒家的價值觀。馬克說:“太多的台灣人都不敢跟老闆反映實際的狀況或該做什麼。台灣的員工不覺得自己有權做決定,也就因為這樣減少了跟上級的溝通。所以不會有辯論,不會挑戰現況,不會有瘋狂的創意,反正老闆說了才算。久而久之既然老闆說了算,老闆也就負責從頭發想吧。最後變成了非常扁平的組織,老闆是第一層,員工都是第二層。員工只會等待著老闆發號施令,而忽略了其他部門跟其他同仁們的側面需求。員工變得不會跟其他員工合作,去協調找出解決方法, 因為他們唯一需要接受的就是老闆的指令,當公司內的唯一互動變成了由上到下, 由老闆到員工的向下指揮系統,這種一言堂就很難創新了。”

“這也不是沒有解決之道。老闆可以藉由確實的定義組織內的每一個人的權責,並且充分授權負責人可以做決策來改變現況。開會的時候老闆可以少說點話,鼓勵其他人多分享自己的意見。對員工而言,他們必須體認到公司的營運應該是眾人的集思廣益跟辛苦工作而產生的成績單,不光是老闆一個人的責任。員工應該敞開心胸常跟老闆溝通,多跟公司的同事交流。特別是任何阻礙公司成長的問題應該要被端上檯面,共同討論並決定如何解決這些問題的行動計劃。”

馬克在台灣各行各業當過行為跟態度分析師的豐富經驗,讓他以獨特的切入角度探討台灣的商業模式:

“台灣過去的40年經濟發展,主要是建築在單一經濟模式:用同樣的品質的產品但是更低一點的價錢來搶出口訂單,換句話說就是增加CP值。即使這個商業模式越來越沒有競爭力,也不管大家看了多少藍海策略或是價值主張的企管書,台灣還是沒有辦法擺脫CP值魔咒,就好像是大學畢業生畢業以後還在靠父母的經濟支援一樣。”

“更簡單的來說,我發現製造商被困在這個向下沉淪的價格戰中無法脫身只有一個緣故: 台灣一直把自己定位在只做ODM/OEM。”

“問題的核心來了。有別於接單生產的模式,經營國際性的品牌會衍生更多的聯絡窗口。從幾個長期的客戶到幾百個銷售管道跟合作伙伴,甚至要面對幾百萬個直接客戶。公司若是想要成功, 有更多的行銷,產品策略, 客戶服務,客戶經驗需要有人管理,而且需要做更多的決定。這樣的國際品牌所需要做的決定只會越來越多越快越複雜,不可能等著靠老闆一個人做決策。”

“OEM/ODM的心態不改是台灣的第二個阻礙。

台灣的公司總是等著他們的OEM/ODM顧客下指令。當台灣的公司試著擺脫OEM/ODM的模式,想改作自有的品牌,還是不免過度倚賴幫現有客戶代工的產品線來做自有品牌的產品。但是品牌不夠響亮,也不知道該如何進行差異化行銷,產品又滿類似,最後只敢模仿大客戶做過的產品,這樣怎麼會有進步?”

“OEM/ODM的心態限制讓公司不願意去冒險嘗試有效的突破式創新。OEM/ODM當然讓許多公司賺過大錢,但是這個光賣高CP值的好日子已經過去,因為性價比打不過中國了。而且對於OEM/ODM顧客長久以來的言聽計從,使得很多台灣公司並沒有實際練兵的機會,所以這些公司對於自己該開發並專注在什麼產品顯得無所適從。”

“最後,第三個阻擋台灣走向國際成功之路的阻礙:教育體制。

台灣現今的商業環境我覺得其實就是課堂上的縮影。台灣人花16年在學校被教育該如何思考跟作為,進入職場以後繼續強化同樣的操作模式,難怪每個員工都是習於同樣的基本設定跟一成不變的反應。”

當每個人都忙著考試,沒有人會有時間去建立一套創新的文化。沒有實驗,沒有發明,沒有觀察,沒有對話,也不會有辯論。相反的,如果你有個好主意,你只能留給自己,然後當時候到了,自己開公司。這就是為什麼台灣有這麼多的中小企業,大家都想自己當老闆。然而中小企業缺乏資源跟投資來做突破性的升級,最後大部分的中小企業只能回頭做剝削式創新。

但是馬克也不是全然的悲觀,跟台灣這麼多各行各業的精英共事之後,他還是要給予台灣肯定:“台灣在節約材料成本跟製造科技方面非常的成功,生產出許多專業級的產品, 讓這些產品不再遙不可及, 這促進了消費市場的成長與升級。但是現在台灣不能只有想到如何放量製造與節約成本,該是開始尋找新的機會了。”

馬克建議台灣的公司該如何走出危機:“企業要形塑共識跟未來的願景,這樣才能夠凝聚整個公司去追求共同的成功目標,公司所做的種種決策才會有一致的核心。如此一來,擺脫三大阻礙, 企業主才有辦法從整天開不完的會議抽身,把時間省下來思索下一個大目標。企業主跟員工各司其職, 才是雙贏的局面,共同打造健全的全球品牌。”

這是馬克積極地希望跟大家分享的一些建議與點出的方向,畢竟台灣的未來還有一條充滿挑戰的路要向前走, 無論職位, 你我都在這條路上。

DDG team

Mark Stocker和DDG員工.

以上照片取自DDG網站

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Foreigners in Taiwan: One Brand of Advice for Taiwan’s Dying Manufacturing Industry


Mark Stocker is a brand consultant and strategist. For the past 20 years he has assisted over one hundred businesses with their brand development and marketing. As managing director of the agency DDG he has played an active role in helping Taiwan’s enterprises think about new market opportunities. He is a strong advocate for Taiwan to develop its own international business identity.

By Stuart Hill

mark stocker

Mark Stocker, managing director of DDG, has been helping Taiwan companies re-brand their products and companies for over 20 years.

Mark Stocker thinks Taiwan is facing a national crisis. If the number of its international brands is any reflection of prosperity, Taiwan is in big trouble. While Taiwan’s education system, business style and political culture have provided a winning formula for an era of hardware manufacturing, those golden days will soon be over — if they aren’t already. Margins in the manufacturing of IT hardware tend to be around 3% these days.

A recent discussion on Facebook emerged from an article written by a foreigner who was leaving Taiwan. (See the English conversation. And the Chinese conversation it sparked on Facebook.)

He was complaining that there was a poor climate of innovation in the country. He was trying to launch his own startup but finding it difficult. He complained about the lack of support from government and commented on the lack of creativity among Taiwanese graduates.

Steve Lucas quote

The English discussion thread about the good and bad of the working culture in Taiwan, which triggered the Chinese conversation (for and against) on Facebook.

Having also followed that Facebook discussion, how does Mark Stocker define the climate for innovation in Taiwan?

“I am sure you will agree, this is not an easy question to answer,” Stocker says. “In part because there are so many factors that are in play and in part because Taiwan is a country in flux. There is risk of stereotyping the situation, which would be an injustice to individuals and organizations that have done things differently.

“Your question is about the climate of innovation in Taiwan today. The short answer, based on my experience, is that innovation is being seriously stifled by three things: an OEM/ODM mindset, Confucian values, and the education system. These factors are affecting businesses of all sizes, although the situation is a little bit different inside each company.”

He’s obviously analyzed this issue a lot. Stocker refers me to something he’s shared with others before: “There are two types of innovation. Exploratory innovation is defined by discovery, experimentation, and risk taking with a focus on new ideas, new products and new strategies. Exploitative innovation is defined by building on and extending already existing ideas with a focus on incremental improvement or adaptation of existing products and strategies.”

He adds: “So in a way we need to be careful when talking about innovation. Are we talking about exploratory innovation or exploitative innovation? Taiwan is very good at the latter, but head-shakingly incompetent at the former.”

Among a pervasive atmosphere of self-fulfilling business gloom in Taiwan, Stocker argues passionately for change; challenging business owners to shift from top-down management, incremental innovation, and reliance on price and speed as their only product differentiators. But he also pushes employees to be more responsible and to be brave about making decisions and generating ideas.

On the DDG website, Stocker regularly shares his thoughts on his corporate blog. He doesn’t pull his punches. Here are just some of his opinions, first about the relationship between employees and employers:

“To put it simply, bosses aren’t happy with employees; and employees aren’t happy with their employment. This is a serious issue. Not only for the competitiveness of Taiwanese companies, but also for the competitiveness of the nation of Taiwan. There is a cultural stalemate going on inside companies that is hindering them from achieving greater potential, at a time when transformation and advancement is an imperative for Taiwan’s small and medium-sized businesses and brands.”

This leads to one of the big three challenges facing Taiwanese business as he sees it: Confucian values.

Says Stocker: “Unfortunately, too many Taiwanese are afraid to tell their boss what is going on and what should be done. Taiwanese employees don’t feel they have the right to make decisions, and for this reason they refrain from communicating (anything) with their superiors. There is no debate, there is no challenging of the status quo; there are no crazy ideas. The boss has to do all the talking, and over time since he/she is doing all the talking, he/she starts to do all the thinking as well. We end up with these incredibly flat organizations, with a boss on one layer and all employees on a second layer. Employees wait for the directive from the boss, and ignore anything coming laterally from co-workers. They also won’t collaborate with other employees to find an idea to work on, because the only relationship they need to attend to is that with the boss. It is very hard to be innovative when the only interaction is boss-to-employee in a downward direction.”

But there are solutions:

“Bosses can help drive change by clearly defining roles and responsibilities for all individuals within the organization, and by making it clear that decisions must be made by those responsible for a given role. In meetings, the boss should strive to talk less, and to encourage greater and more open sharing by employees. For employees, the task is to recognize that the health of the company is a result of the decision-making and action of every individual, and not just the boss. Employees should communicate more openly with the boss, as well as with colleagues across the organization. In particular, issues that are hindering the company’s performance should be brought into the open, and a plan of action should be developed collectively to address each obstacle.”

Having worked as a catalyst for attitudinal and behavioral change in industry, Stocker’s lengthy experience puts him in a unique position to talk about Taiwanese business methods:

“Taiwan’s four decades of economic development were built largely on a single business model: winning export orders by delivering a quality product at a lower price (aka CP Value). Despite the increasingly uncompetitive nature of this business model, and in spite of sales of millions of copies of books like Blue Ocean Strategy and Value Proposition Model, Taiwan has failed to break its reliance on the CP Value model; not much unlike a college student who continues to rely on mom and dad for money after graduation.”

Put more simply:

“I have come to a realization that Taiwan manufacturers are trapped in this downward price spiral for one simple reason: because they continue to define themselves as ODMs.”

And here is the core of the problem:

“Unlike the contracting manufacturing model, however, international branding requires a company to expand the points of contact from a few long-term customers to hundreds of channel partners and, in many cases, millions of consumers. Furthermore, the addition of marketing, product strategy, customer service, and consumer experience to the management mix swells the number of decisions a company must make in order to succeed. The decision-making requirements of an international brand are exponentially more complicated, making it near impossible for a single business owner to be successfully involved in all decisions.”

This OEM/ODM mindset is another of Taiwan’s key three challenges, as Stocker sees it:

“For the most part, Taiwanese companies are waiting to be told what to do by their OEM/ODM customers. When companies do try to escape the OEM/ODM trap by doing their own brand, they tend to over rely on their existing customers’ product lines to define their own-brand product portfolio. But without a brand, little sense on how to differentiate through marketing, and a me-too product (since they only dare to do what their big client was doing in the first place), they don’t make much progress.

“Overall the OEM/ODM mindset limits the willingness to take on many of the risks needed to do effective exploratory innovation. It was a great way to make money when it lasted, but the era of delivering the highest CP Value has now past — lost to China. Meanwhile, the habit of listening to the OEM/ODM customer for so many years has meant that many companies never got the chance to exercise their product marketing muscles, so they remain highly incompetent in the area of deciding what products to do and what not to do.”

This brings us to the third key inhibitor on Taiwan’s international success: education.

“The business environment as far as I can tell is a reflection of the classroom. People are trained into this way of thinking/acting over 16 years, and when the company they join reinforces this mode of operation, people just default to what they are used to.

“When each individual is taking his/her own test, you aren’t going to build a very innovative culture. No experimentation. No exploration. No observation. No conversation. No debate. To the converse, if you as an individual do come across a good idea, you are going to keep it to yourself, and when the timing is right you will ‘start your own company’. This is why Taiwan has so many small and medium-sized businesses! But small businesses lack the resources to invest in big breakthroughs. So most small businesses are really just doing exploitative innovation built on an already existing innovation.”

Yet Stocker isn’t all doom and gloom, and having worked with so many business people across multiple industry sectors, he also has positive things to say:

“Taiwan has been highly successful at costing down material and production technologies in order to manufacture professional-grade goods that help drive the development of prosumer market segments. It’s time to stop thinking in simple terms (volume up, cost-down) and start looking for opportunities from the market perspective.”

He’s also got positive suggestions for how companies can escape from their corporate crises:

“A collective purpose and envisioned future for the organization brings individuals together in pursuit of a common objective so that decisions happening across the organization have a common core. The business owner is then left free of the many minute decisions that once took up his or her day, so that more time can be spent on the next big objective. It’s a win-win situation for all, and the recipe for building a robust global brand.”

At the very least, it’s a specific direction and some constructive advice for Taiwan’s tough way ahead.

DDG team

Mark Stocker and some of the team at DDG.

(All images for this article taken from the DDG website: www.ddg.com.tw )