KFS (KM) in China:
XIII Personal interview with Yan Shen

Position: Information repository manager at a US multinational IT company in Shanghai
Interviewer: Stefan Broda
Date: 18.2.2005

Topic: Knowledge Management in China, cultural perspectives

Could you tell me about Chinese culture and knowledge work. Would you say that there could be challenges?

Yan Shen:
I think that in general, you have the same problems everywhere in the world. However, what culture influences is the weight of each of these problems. As a result, in China, some things could work better while in the US others could be more difficult and the other way around. One occasion were culture was an obstacle was the centralization of our knowledge repositories worldwide. Before that, our teams worked with Lotus Notes teamrooms which were restricted to the team. But as they were asked to upload all their content to a central database, they did not want to do it. They said that they didn't' want others to copy & paste it without fully understanding it. So the solution was for us to let them have their little privacy and keep the main info secret but they had to write abstracts with meta-keywords so it was locatable by other employees. In case they want it they would need approval from the team leader.

Copy & Pasting without understanding it. I heard complains like this before. Does that happen often?

Yan Shen:
I think it does. Take the presentation of methodology for example. When we present to the customer, we always tell them that our work follows a certain set of patterns to ensure quality. But you know, this is not the Chinese way - we sometimes prefer to keep things more flexible. Most Chinese customers have the same understanding. So in the proposal, it often is just a marketing thing.

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