To Sleep or Not to Sleep (at Your Desk)—That Is the Question in China
Companies working out of China should adapt to the local work culture instead of trying to impose a foreign one, writes Israeli-born entrepreneur Ami Dror
Ami Dror | 16:49 26.06.2018
It was during my first week as CEO and only non-Chinese member of the team at the Shanghai-based startup I founded, that I noticed something I had never seen before in all my years in the tech industry. As I walked back into the office after my lunch break, I looked around and saw that all of my employees were sleeping. Yes, SLEEPING. At their desks, on the floor, everyone was face down, eyes closed. While locals or those very familiar with Chinese culture may not have been phased by the sight of employees taking a post-lunch nap, I was completely stunned.
I then realized that I needed to harness this young, fast-paced, innovative spirit in order to help our company grow. I made it my goal to become an enabler of innovation and give my team the freedom to work at their own pace and in the environment that would suit them best. I wanted my team to use their own best practices without being held back by what to them seemed like outdated tools and what my experiences had led me to believe were the "correct" workplace norms. If that meant taking a nap after lunch or maintaining complete silence in the office, so be it. Nothing about this process was easy and we got off to quite a rough start. Even when we were technically speaking the same language, I often could not fully understand my employees and vice versa. We kept making mistakes and even failed to understand the market. This went on for some time until I discovered the most surprising pattern. When I came back from an international business trip I noticed that things were going much more smoothly in the office. At first, I refused to believe that I was the cause of the problem, but when the same thing happened following my next business trip, I finally got it. Despite my good intentions, I was keeping my team from truly maximizing their exceptional problem-solving abilities. The company truly started to take off, once my employees were given more time to innovate in a way that made sense to them.
Ami Dror is co-founder and CEO of LeapLearner, a Shanghai-based edtech company. Mr. Dror also co-founded Zaitoun Ventures, a Tel Aviv-based venture capital firm focused on companies that were co-founded by Jewish and Arab entrepreneurs.