China and Teachability are often not concepts we think of together, but we need to. Many word checks will say that teachability is not a word. After a few years managing in China, it became a word I would add to the dictionary. China and Teachability is so valuable and so hard to find. Many Chinese have a very narrow view of life due to their upbringing. This makes it hard for them to deeply connect with a Western company. Alignment then becomes a practical impossibility for unexamined reasons.
China and Teachability Need to Be on Our Radar
Without teachability, none of us is any great use. The world is changing too quickly and information overload is beyond all of us. We must maintain our teachability at all times. Call center workers can be our teachers when we have teachability. Our Chinese workers need it to. It is very hard to teach this to a worker. It is easier to hire those that have it, and do that without fail. The unteachable harm our teams and drag us down. Job descriptions rarely list teachable, but in the interview you should see if they are. This will be more important than the details of the technology they know.
China and Teachability Impacted by Confucianism
This quote from Wikipedia on Confucianism makes me think.
Li is a system of ritual norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act in everyday life.
When I arrived in China, I had the overwhelming picture of China as a narrow vertical tube with a very small hole. All people in China regardless of personality or family culture were required to fit into and stay in the narrow column, It is like hammers are used to force children and even adults into the mold and serve the rules before them. Everyone you want to hire grew up under a “my way is the only way” culture. Flexibility or breaking free from your thinking pattern were harshly forbidden.
Teachability is Valuable, Needed and Findable
A teachable team can climb many heights. One that lacks it can only do what they know and often cannot get that done. Lets put teachability on our list of character traits we like in our people. It will take us a long way anywhere, and especially in China. All the teams I have personally built and even have now had this as a main tenant and it has served me well. They can be found and are worth their weight.
How can you know if a possible hire is teachable? Any guy who can be vulnerable in an interview is a candidate. Beyond that, it takes a deeper look than just an interview.
Consider that we as Westerners are bringing new ideas to China without fail. We need people who are interested in and able to absorb what we have. Many can only pretend to absorb. The good news is that some Chinese people want to learn from what we have and can adapt to what we bring to the table.