Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing -- 6 September 2012

Quick recap: What is this? As we develop our "curated content" model, we would like to share some of the most interesting material from our Catalyst Asia site ( with you.  These may be articles, reports, visualizations, videos, or other media that has been posted here by associates, or suggested by our Catalyst colleagues and fellows. Intelligence, in this instance, is knowledge and insights--usually from the outside--that we believe could be useful to our Mars colleagues.  We have read it, and provided very brief summaries of the content so you can decide if you would like read the details.  We are launching this via a blog and bullet-format email in order to make this resource as widely accessible as possible. We hope you will enjoy these notes, and that you will tell us how we can improve them and tailor them to your requirements.

Back to School…

Our coursework this week focuses on innovation within organizations and teams, Chinese political and economic policies, and Chinese consumer cultures.  We also offer two extra credit topics touching on economics. 

Innovation in action

At Catalyst, we believe in looking for counterintuitive insights and challenging established practices.  So, we like these two complimentary explorations of innovation that challenge conventional wisdom regarding the best methods to enact management/process change and generate new ideas.

-   When making process improvements in your workplace, its far better to act on as many of the easy-to-solve problems as soon as possible, rather than analyzing and prioritizing the universe of possible improvements.  That is the counterintuitive finding in this brief summary of a new Harvard Business School research paper, Employee-Suggestion Programs That Work.

-   In a similar vein, in Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea, researchers at INSEAD suggest that idea generation can be vastly improved by doing away with the up-front brainstorming sessions—a frequently recommended technique.  In fact, they found that teams created more and better ideas when they started working independently, only coordinating with team members after developing ideas on their own.

Perspectives and China

External analysis of Chinese political and economic policy is a growth industry in and of itself…so we appreciate the effort when an analyst attempts to view the world from a different perspective.

-   According to the authors of How China Sees America, Chinese policy makers view America as militaristic, offense-minded, expansionist, and selfish—as well as economically exploitative and diplomatically intolerant of the existence of a strong China.

-   The Chinese have the hard currency reserves and the desire to turn them into outbound FDI in order to improve China’s position in the value added chain.  As they do so, they are encountering some resistance from those who fear China is out to “take over the world.”  The East Asia Forum reviews the situation in the Globalization of Chinese Capital [p. 4-6 of the pdf].

Chinese consumers

We enjoyed this pair of articles for their insights into two important consumer groups—pet owners, and women.

-   Pet ownership is on the rise in China, along with disposable income, fueling a petcare market worth an estimated $1.2 billion this year.  Bloomberg reports on this in China’s Poodle Babies.

-   Women’s roles are shifting…catching some between living up to modern (often Western) ideals and more traditional expectations.  As noted in the Meaning of Beauty in Chinese Society, even marketing to this half of the population can require creating a delicate balance between the two.

Food for thought

As we study intensively the growth of the middle classes in Asia and other emerging market countries, 60 Years of US Economic History Told in 1 Graph provides a thought provoking infographic look at the fate of the American middle class.

Finally, Alan Greenspan on his Fed Legacy and the Economy is a surprisingly wide-ranging interview with the former US Federal Reserve chairman, covering everything from monetary policy to philosophy and Ayn Rand.

Book recommendation

With easily digestible yet groundbreaking research, Predictably Irrational by MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely shows how we consistently fail to behave in rational ways.  We systematically overpay, procrastinate, overestimate how happy a thing will make us, underestimate risk, and overvalue what we own.  Perhaps knowing how our behavior is systematically misguided will help us make better decisions J. Available on your Catalyst Kindle.


All articles are archived at

Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing -- 28 September 2012

Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing -- 10 August 2012