Faster isn’t always better

When my wife and I went to buy coffee at coffee shops in Shanghai, my wife usually went to find seats, and I was the only person who ordered the coffee. I told the cashier that I wanted a cup of Cafe Americano and a cup of Latte, but every time, the cashier put Coffee Americano into the machine first, and when I said I also wanted a cup of Latte, the cashier always canceled the Cafe Americano and then put in the Latte. Well….I wanted both Cafe Americano and Latte!

I was always wondering why the cashiers kept doing that in Shanghai?! Finally, I know why. If my wife was with me at the cashier, this kind of situation would not happen, but when I went to order alone, it happened. Because the cashiers always assumed I was alone if I ordered alone, so when I ordered the second item, they automatically thought I changed my mind on my first order and canceled it. The cashiers in China tried to be faster, so they thought by assuming things for me ahead which would shorten the ordering time, but they did not realize when they did that each time, they actually made me angry. They tried to expedite the ordering but lost the quality of service. I also saw similar situations occurred in interior design business over there. Enough said. Faster design is not always better design.

What changed?

In the States, I designed people’s houses in Carribeans and the local designers developed into detailed construction drawings based on my design concepts. In Asia, I drew construction drawings based on American designers’ design concepts. I am still me. What changed?!

Unreasonable Fast-Paced Schedule Affects the Quality of Design

Even though Shanghai has great infrastructure, the quality of it is just very poor. The subway for instance, the design is so old fashioned and the materials look so outdated. Many platforms look very dark due to poor lighting design, the floor looks dirty and old due to the fading colors of the stone slabs. The numbers of the escalators and stair cases are not proportioned. The floor layouts and signages are confusing. Restrooms and elevators are also difficult to find. The train carts are relatively small compared to the large volumes of commuters in the city. The seats and pathways are very narrow and the light fixtures always blocked the view to the posted ads or the route maps on the trains. The design just does not exist. You can very easily tell the entire subway system was built in very hurry without any deep thinking through in terms of functionality or aesthetic. I always thought the subway system in Shanghai has been built for at least 20 years or older, but I was shocked to learn the construction for the entire subway system in Shanghai did not start until the beginning of ’00. Oh my…. I have nothing to say.

The Definition of Foreign Designer in China

Many people thought a designer like me, an America educated and trained designer, would have more advantages over the local Chinese designers in China.

Well, I disagree because I was paid like a local designer, and my designs were criticized like a local designer. I was also asked to copy the designs from American design magazines. Meanwhile, a Caucasian person who does not know anything about interior design was hired and paid as an American interior designer, and his responsibility? Going to client meetings and just sitting there doing nothing to give the clients the impression that the design firm is more “international”.

I always heard people said “It is a privilege to be born as a white person” in the US, but I disagreed with it strongly because I was treated and paid no less than any Caucasian designer in the US, but I never expected the same saying would fit in China perfectly.

Does long working hours translate to real profits?

These are the 10 most influential brands in the world according to the April 2, 2013 article by Kochie’s Business Builders:

1. Google

2. Microsoft

3. Apple

4. Facebook

5. Visa

6. Coca-Cola

7. Samsung

8. YouTube

9. MasterCard

10. P&G

After I saw this result, I am puzzled because there is only 1 Asian Company on the list. It can’t be because most Asian businesses have the tradition of working overtime. Longer working hours means higher productivity which many Asian businesses deeply believe. So, based on that theory, it should have more Asian businesses on the list.

We also can see most of the companies on this list are American businesses and most American businesses do not promote working overtime. I think for many Asian business owners, this list must be wrong.

The True Productivity

There are a lot of businesses out there still believe working overtime can increase productivity but fail to realize productivity should not be measured by how much is accomplished alone, how much time spent on fixing the mistakes and revising bad ideas should also be considered.

For example, if a set of construction drawing normally requires 7 days to finish but you push your designers to finish it in 3 days, maybe your designer can finish it in 3 days as you requested, but you might want to consider if any error or bad design has occurred due to the fatigue your designer sustained because of long working hours.

If your designers spent 3 days to finish the drawings but spend another 5 days worth of work on correcting mistakes or stupid designs, arguing with contractors/vendors, and apologizing to the clients, then you must calculate the total time spent on this construction drawing set as 8 days, not 3 days anymore. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many employers out there are still ignoring it and deeply believe by working overtime, they can get more things done and fail to realize it is just absolutely an illusion.

Working in the US as an interior designer

People always think living and working in the US after graduating from college is normal, nothing special about it, but people should understand why the employers in the US were willing to hire a foreigner who needed a work visa but not an US citizen? Well, it’s simple, I was better than other interior designers who were US citizens.

A lesson of democracy from a hit Hollywood movie

Chinese audiences laughed about the scenes in the movie “White House Down” showing the transferring of power with the nuclear weapon launching code from the president to vice president and to speaker of the House if the leader was dead or incapable of performing the tasks in the US. I think the Chinese people should stop laughing and think if the similar situation happened to your government, what kind of power transferring mechanism your government has in order to insure the power won’t fall into one crazy nut or fall into no one?? I think that is the lesson Chinese people can learn from this action packed movie. I give this movie a thumb up.