Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds In this part, we will look at the relationship between Chinese culture and innovation. China was very innovative for thousands of years. However, there is less evidence that is the case in the past hundred years. Today, its innovation capability is ranked around 30 in the world. Why is that? A huge amount of research was conducted on why China has been like that in the past hundred years in science, technology, and innovation. Culture was identified by scholars like Needham as one of the key factors influencing innovation. China has a very long history and rich culture with different religions and philosophies, such as Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and others.
Skip to 1 minute and 9 seconds But what is exactly the current national culture of China and how does it influence its innovation? Let’s look at what is culture first. There are many definitions of culture. In summary, culture is the shared mind and values of a group of people. Ajzen (1991) says that culture of a nation, especially its collective mindset, value, norms and belief system, influences people’s styles of thinking, attitude, intention, and finally behavior in all ranks of life. Hall (1976) says culture is the sum total of all communication. Since culture is communicated from one generation to the next gradually often without even thinking about it, the impact is taken for granted and lasts for a long time. Does a national culture influence innovation?
Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds The answer is yes. The impact of national cultures on national innovation capability has been researched (Sun 2009). The research is based on a globally comparable measure of national cultures by two scholars, Hofstede(1997) and Hall (1976).
Skip to 2 minutes and 52 seconds The research found that the innovation capability tended to be higher in a society, if 1) People share power more equally; 2) People are more individualistic; 3) People are more tolerant with uncertainty; 4) People follow scientific thinking and method rather than intuition and past experience; 5) People do things as precisely as possible rather than as flexibly as possible. So where is China in terms of these five dimensions? This table compares China and the U.S.A. in the aforementioned five dimensions, scoring from 0 to 1. We can see that China has a pretty high score in tolerance with uncertainty, more than the U.S. However, China scores lower than the U.S. in thinking and working precisely.
Skip to 4 minutes and 9 seconds China is also lower in equality and individualism, and even lower in scientific thinking. Overall, the Chinese innovative culture index is only 0.37 compared with 0.87 in the U.S. In conclusion, contemporary Chinese culture does not support innovation as much as some other cultures. There is no good or bad about cultures. They are just different. But what shall we do when teaching and learning innovation under Chinese culture? Shall we change the Chinese culture in order to be innovative? I do not think we can change a national culture in a course. However, we have to consider some pertinent cultural issues during teaching and learning. Otherwise, they may become obstacles to innovation. Thank you for watching.
The impact of national culture on innovation
Culture is identified by scholars as one of the key factors influencing innovation in China.
According to Dr. Geert Hofstede, one of the leading empirical researchers on culture, “National Culture is about the value differences between groups of nations and/or regions.” China has a very long history, a rich culture, and different religions and philosophies such as Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and others. But how can we succinctly describe the current national culture of China and how does it influence innovation?
Research reveals that contemporary Chinese culture does not support innovation as much as some other cultures. While there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ about cultures - they are just different - pertinent cultural issues have to be considered while learning about innovation and entrepreneurship in China.
Ajzen, I. (1991). The Theory Of Planned Behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179-211.
Hall, E.T. (1976). Beyond Culture. New York: Anchor Press.
Hofstede, G. (1997) Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, London: McGraw-Hill.
Hofstede, G. (n.d.). Cultural Dimensions. Retrieved August 15, 2016 from https://geert-hofstede.com/cultural-dimensions.html
Needham, J. (1954) Science and Civilisation in China: Introductory Orientations, Cambridge University Press.
Sun, H. Y. (2009). A Meta-Analysis on the Influence of National Culture on Innovation Capability. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, 10 (3/4), 353-360.
© City University of Hong Kong