After several years absence from Hong Kong in the aftermath of Covid, it was a delight to be able to revisit and also engage with coaches in mainland China. Last time I was in Shenzhen, it was just a village. Now, it’s a thriving modern city of 18 million people. The level of technology in everyday life was a shock – from a technological perspective, this is a highly advanced society, changing far faster than any city I have observed in the West.
From my interactions with Chinese coaches and business leaders it’s also clear that the sense of pace applies to learning, too. And there’s the danger – the technology can’t distinguish between evidence-based, high-quality learning imports and quick fix ones. It’s reminiscent of selling out-of-date pharmaceuticals into countries that don’t have an established pharma industry of their own. The good news is that my local colleagues, Transcend, observe that Chinese clients – especially at a corporate level – are asking the right questions and wising up for high quality evidenced based programs with longer term vision and sustainable outcomes
Maintaining an alignment between technological advancement and learning is a challenge in every modern society. In such a fast-evolving society as China, it’s even more challenging. China is increasing becoming the world’s laboratory in this and other fields (such as climate change adaptation). We can expect to see increasing challenge to North American cultural domination of coaching research and theory, for example.
En route to China, I also spent time in India, with my colleagues from X-Monks and had multiple conversations with industry leaders and Human Resources leaders. The pace of change is not so dramatic there, but similar themes arise. There is, for example, a growing tension between the desire by coaching practitioners to become accredited at the cheapest cost and least effort and the need of corporate clients to work with highly trained, highly competent coaches. In the UK more than a decade ago, some corporate clients took matters into their own hands, using assessment centre approaches to work out who could and couldn’t really coach. As the supply of coaches approaches the level of demand, this may well be a way forward in India.
What’s happening in coaching and mentoring in China and India is important for Western countries and professional associations. Over the next decades, these economies will exert greater influence on what constitutes good practice. Well-founded, evidence-based coach education that is culturally inclusive will continue to have a major role to play. But the days of providing dumbed-down programmes to these and other fast-developing economies are well and truly numbered.
© David Clutterbuck 2023