BY ELLEN ROSSOW
Business professors Peter Geib and James Swenson have been friends and colleagues for years. After publishing various papers together, Lambert Academic Publishing invited them to publish a book together. After six months of work, the book has been published. This book “China: The Leadership Challenge of Continuous Innovation,” is the result of the collaborative efforts of the different areas of expertise they have.
“We are a team,” Swenson said. “My area of expertise is innovation and entrepreneurship. Peter is an expert in international business, China and all kinds of business organization.”
According to Swenson, the collaboration they have isn’t just because their knowledge is complementary, but because they have learned how to work together over time.
“We have known each other for a long time and are good friends,” he said. “It works out really really good. We have a great time doing it, and we are good at it.”
Geib has been doing research in China since 1988, when he was sent there to start an exchange program by Dr. Roland Dille. Since then, he has come to find a plethora of truths about the differences between Chinese thinking and American thinking.
“The students here are very diverse and open and have a lot of freedom to do new things,” Swenson said.
This differs from the students in China. According to Geib, China has been on the road to reform for a long while.
“In 1978, China started down the road of rather dramatic reform,” Geib said. “The current Chinese leadership, they are just doing their jobs, they are seeking to further the reforms.”
While the reforms are intending to be positive for China, the speed at which all of these things are happening is detrimental. According to Geib, the growth of China is unbelieveable.
“We have never seen anything like it,” Geib said. “Historians have never seen so many people make this kind of economic advance. It’s a remarkable story.”
It is for this reason that Geib and Swenson focused their book on innovation in China.
“We are simply underlining the fact that companies, countries and organizations cannot survive unless they innovate in their rapidly changing environments,” Swenson said. “China is a great example.”
According to Swenson and Geib, they were motivated to focus on the topic they did because of the rapid changes in technology.
“Technology is accelerating change,” Swenson said.
According to Swenson, Nintendo making less profit because their games are not supported on the latest game systems, and Kodak is no longer making profit because of digital technology taking over the market are good examples of this rapid change.
“Apple has to keep bringing out new products, Disney has to keep making new films, Pixar has to keep having new animations,” Swenson said. “If they fail to do that then they have a big problem.”
According to Geib and Swenson this idea is comparable to China’s situation.
Swenson and Geib were not only motivated by this idea though.
“Also, globalization is very much a reality,” Geib said. “The whole world is going international. The world has more diversity ethnically and culturally than it’s ever had. Those kind of global realities are what motivated us to do this kind of work.”
Geib and Swenson’s book is written in two parts, with Geib writing the first half about the facts and history of China, and Swenson writing the last half which is more theoretical.
“It’s very much like a songwriting team,” Swenson said. “One does the lyrics, and one does the melody and the music.”
Swenson and Geib are very confident in their work.
“We are very upfront about knowing what we are doing,” Swenson said. “It’s almost pushing the envelope.”
Swenson and Geib are very passionate about their work. Although they are very pleased with their final product, they realize that their ideas are just ideas.
“We are never saying we have the right answer,” Geib and Swenson said. “Perhaps this will be helpful.”