Lessons to learn from Jack Ma

Andrea Myles

As Jack Ma’s visionary words rang out across the crowd of 400-odd CEOs gathered to witness the opening of the Alibaba Australia and New Zealand office in Melbourne over the weekend, I knew I was watching a kindred spirit.

I was delighted to be chosen from the crowd to ask Jack a question as China affects me in an powerful way just as Australia has influenced Jack Ma.

Andrea Myles on Jack Ma: He’s a CEO of the future, opening doors for those behind him.

[This post originally appeared on Linkedin. Andrea Myles is CEO of the China Australia Millennial Project, which brings together 150 innovators under the age of 35 for a 100 day part-time innovation program in Shanghai, Sydney and online. Applications close February 19.]

Here are my top 10 takeaways from his speech and Jack’s answer to the question I asked “If you were 20 today, what business would you start?”

1. Jack loves Australia

“This is the country that changed me. This is the country I love most outside of China. This is the country that inspired me. In 1985 when I first came here for 29 days, I had thought China was the richest, happiest country in the world. After this trip, I realised China needed to change, we need to have big reform.”

2. Be humble, you’ll have greater empathy with your end user

His words were genuine, humble and human-centred. “If Jack Ma can be successful, I knew that 80 per cent of people in China can be successful to, because we don’t have money, we don’t have relationships, we don’t have the backgrounds that need business.”

3. SMEs can ease the growing pains of globalisation

“Globalisation is in growing pains. We need to make globalisation more inclusive. In the past 18 years, Alibaba has focused on working with small businesses, young people and women. We believe in these 3 groups. SMEs are the centre of innovation, SMEs create most jobs. It is impossible for big companies to double their headcounts, but for SMEs, adding one or two job opportunities is possible.”

4. Young people and women are the key to success

“We believe that young people should have the future. We’re for empowering young people to use data technology. We believe the world is moving from IT to DT. DT means data technology, not Donald Trump.

“Here women are the most creative in business. Women are the secret sauce of our business. 48 per cent of our colleagues are women. 34 per cent of senior management are women.

“We have a woman CEO, COO, Chief People Officer. It is women that make a world of difference. User friendliness is the key to success and women do better at that.”

5. Technology can create problems as well as solve them

“The world needs new leadership. This new leadership is not about one person. It is not about one single country. It’s about working together to solve problems.

“With every new technology, we have new problems. The first technology revolution caused WWI as it empowered strength as machines became stronger than people.

“The second technology revolution caused WWII as it empowered distance as machines could travel faster and further than humans.”

6. The Third World War will be about…

“The third technology revolution is IT. This one revolution will liberate people’s brains. Machines will be much smarter than people but people are wiser than machines. Machines will be controlled by people.

“The third world war should be against poverty, environmental pollution and disease. If we work together, we can win. If we don’t work together towards the same goal, we have a big problem.”

7. Chinese people want to buy health and happiness from Australia and New Zealand

“In 10-15 years, we ‘ll be more business friendly. This is the confidence that Alibaba has. As big as our market is, Australia and NZ could be the best market and business partners for China.

“What Chinese people want to consume is health and happiness and this is what ANZ is good at. This is what China can learn from.”

8. The next 30 years are key

Jack emphatically urged us “Please pay special attention to the next 30 years. Every technology revolution takes about 50 years. The first 20 years are about the technology; technology, companies, things. ”

“The next 30 years are about the implications of that technology. Electricity was not invented in the US, nor cars, but it is the US uses them most widely.

“The next 30 years will be about using that technology, about embracing the changes that that technology brings.

“Please also pay special attention to companies with employees below 30 people. They are flexible, they will survive in this century, they will use technology and young people and grow.

9. Alibaba is the next global economic superpower

“GDP wise, Alibaba is the 21st largest economy globally. Our vision is to build up an economy which is Top Five in 20 years. That economy, we do not own it. Working together with you, with SMEs we can build up a business which empowers every SME, every young person, every woman, every child by leveraging technology for inclusiveness. If you have a phone, you can buy and sell globally.”

10. What would Jack Ma do if he were 20 today?

I’d like a question of you Jack, and thank you so much for the honour, I might not be the youngest person here but I’d like to know if you were 20 today, what sort of business would you start. How would you inspire this generation with an answer?

“I do wish I were 20 years old today. I think the most important thing when you are 20 is to find a good boss to learn from. When you are 30, do something yourself. When you are 40, do things you’re good at. When you’re 50 years old, support young people. Finally, when you’re 60 years old, spend more time with your family on the beaches.

“If you’re 20 years old today, if you really want to do something yourself, pick up something you love, that you’re passionate about. Find others to work with and work like a team.

“Young people all have fancy ideas, but the most important is making sure one of your ideas can be perfect by working with people and working on something you’re passionate about. Then you have a chance to really succeed”.

I was blown away.

I run Australia’s largest accelerator connecting innovation ecosystems in China and Australia. The human-centred model takes 150 Chinese and Australian participants from strangers to co-founders in the space of the 100-day program which takes place in Shanghai, Sydney and online.

Different to a traditional start-up accelerator operating from a Western business culture which puts business first, CAMP is a trust accelerator which puts people first and accelerates relationships. From great relationships, endless business opportunities become possible.

Jack’s words were profound. He is a CEO of the future, opening doors for so many coming up behind him. If I can absorb a tiny bit of his spark, inspiration and ethos, I will be one happy and grateful CEO.

Thank you to James Hudson and the team at Alibaba Australia and New Zealand for inviting me to witness this historic occasion.

Andrea Myles is CEO of the China Australia Millennial Project. You can apply to CAMP 2017 here. Applications close February 19.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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