The global economy encountered many challenges during 2020 to 2021, and businesses had to institute innovative and often disruptive changes in their operations and business strategies to meet the changes and uncertainties caused by the pandemic. In recognition of their extraordinary achievements in leading their companies innovative responses, on September 28, CKGSB Americas held its first Innovation Awards and Dialogue, to honor two business leaders, Robert L. Freedman, the co-chairman of Colliers, and Kevin Nolan, the president and CEO of GE/Haier, who each received awards for innovation from CKGSB Americas. The evening also featured a dialogue concerning the importance of innovation among the two honorees and Amb. Craig Allen, the President of the US-China Business Council, that was moderated by Consuelo Mack, Founder and Chief Editor of Wealthtrack. .
Opening the event, the Chief Representative of CKGSB Americas, Mary W. Darby, gave the welcome remarks to the speakers and over 70 executive participants. Dean, Prof, Sun Baohong, then briefly discussed recent best innovation practices in China across several industries and gave her views on the outlook for continued future innovation and digital transformation. Prof. Sun presented the 2021 CKGSB Americas Innovation Award to both Robert L. Freedman and Kevin Nolan., each of whom then presented a short video discussing their companies innovative responses to the recent challenges.
In the panel discussion, Robert Freedman, who as co-Chairman of Colliers has more than 25 years in the commercial real estate industry, made the important point that “looking from an innovative view” benefits corporations in the long run. Although remote working now dominates with the booming of virtual technologies, the office space is still irreplaceable. His view is that the office should no longer be seen as a cost center, but instead, the corporate strategic investment which enables companies to best leverage human capital, “where human intelligence is being synergized and real value and wealth being created”.
In his remarks, Kevin Nolan, who has led GE/Haier as President and CEO since Haier acquired the GE appliance business in 2016, discussed how the GE/Haier team that achieved extraordinary success in raising revenues and profits to the highest level in the 105 year history of the business. He emphasized how the organization adopted and embraced a philosophy of “rendanheyi” as key to its success. Taking over a conservative and slow growth business model, management restructured operations to be become fluid and dynamic. GE/Haier adopted a culture empowering its employees to work as entrepreneurs in micro-enterprises, with top management working to support business units..
Ambassador Allen emphasized that in today’s business environment, innovation and technology transfer is no longer a one way traffic from western countries to China. Instead, innovation is going both ways. Ambassador Allen discussed results from a survey published by US-China Business Council showing that, even with all the problems posed by the pandemic, 95% of its US member companies have been making greater-than-average profits in China market. This success encourages and enables companies to bring back to the US the learning from innovations in China and adapt best practices from China to their global networks.
Regina Lai, the regional director of Hong Kong Trade Development Council, delivered the remarks on the innovation successes in Hong Kong. As an “excellent connector” between east and west, and an international financial centre, Hong Kong has gradually formed a dynamic innovation ecosystem that nurtured over 12 unicorns across Fin-Tech, AI, logistics, and travel sectors.
Following Regina Lai’s remarks, VIP participants were invited to several virtual breakout room to continue the discussion concerning the importance of innovation in business and exchange views with their counterparts in industry.
CKGSB Americas is based in New York. It is widely recognized for its success in preparing business leaders for doing business around the world. Its full-time resident faculty and guest lecturers, some of whom previously held departmental chairs and tenured positions at top business schools in the US, generate unique insights that enable organizations to develop new global perspectives and an increased capacity to become truly innovative. CKGSB Americas Innovation Awards and Dialogue will be an annual event featuring the most innovative business leaders and practitioners of the year.