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Brain circuits

Three things businesses need to understand about Asia

Published 12 August 2021 in Brain circuits • 3 min read

Doing business in Asia can pose some challenges to those unfamiliar with the continent’s unique customer base. Before you get started, make sure you fully grasp these three broad stroke ideas you need to understand in terms of Asian innovation.


The term Asia itself isn’t reflective of the enormous diversity of the continent. It is necessary to identify where innovation is actually coming from and there are many different places. There is diversity even in the countries themselves so it requires a lot of sophistication to learn how to cater to specific needs of a region. This is one of the reasons why so many companies prefer to work with local partners.

Scale: While it’s obvious that Asia is a massive continent, it is often viewed in terms of a lucrative consumer market. While that’s true it fails to take into account the intrinsic innovation opportunities that abound simply because of the sheer scale of the continent. With billions of people interacting on social media, you have a constant stream of crazy ideas being generated. Within those, there is a huge mine of fantastic ideas that may lead to the next big thing. There is a massive amount of experimentation happening on the continent and while there will be a lot of failure, the things that survive will have a major impact on all of us. If you fail to pay attention you could miss the next big disruptor in your industry.

Dynamics: Things move faster in Asia, which is also somewhat related to scale, the more people there are the more chance there is someone will move on an idea which can lead to things changing at speeds you don’t see elsewhere in the world. Even from a cosmetic standpoint if you visit somewhere in Asia it will often have changed a year later. While there can be real downsides of rushing new ideas, if your company is going to keep up on the continent, it will need to adapt to the speed things move there, and this can be a significant shift for many businesses, particularly European ones. Failing to get up to speed can not only spell missed opportunity, but it can potentially put your company at risk.

It’s also necessary to consider the downside of moving and growing at high speed, as it entails both environmental and social costs that businesses need to think about.

 If you would like to go deeper, you can sign up for the following program: Asian Innovation Strategies, starting on 19 April, 2022.


Mark Greeven

Mark J. Greeven

Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD

Mark Greeven is Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD. Drawing on a decade of experience in research, teaching and consulting in China, Mark explores how to organize innovation in a turbulent world. He co-directs our Building Digital Ecosystems program.

Patrick Reinmoeller - IMD Professor

Patrick Reinmoeller

Professor of Strategy and Innovation at IMD

Patrick Reinmoeller has led public programs on breakthrough strategic thinking and strategic leadership for senior executives, and custom programs for leading multinationals in fast moving consumer goods, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and energy on developing strategic priorities, implementing strategic initiatives, and managing change. More recently, his work has focused on helping senior executives and company leaders to build capabilities to set and drive strategic priorities.


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