The IT industry is in desperate need of talent. TSMC and MediaTek are actively recruiting. Universities are discussing what the right talent shuld be for the "future" society. But I am more concerned if people would regret 20 years from now for the career choices they make today. How can we derive from the past industrial development the requirements for talent who will meet the needs of our future society and enterprises?
There are two kinds of industrial innovation: sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation. If we identify Taiwan's problems from the viewpoint of sustaining innovation, Taiwan does not seem to be facing much risk. However, Taiwan's insufficient innovation momentum due to the "mature" business models is likely to be the greatest impediment to Taiwan's long-term development. If we agree that the greatest risk for successful companies is the fact that they do everything right, then enterprises like TSMC and MediaTek must seek disruptive innovation. They must look far ahead what kind of talent they will need in the next 10 or 20 years, rather than bury themselves in financial reports and daily management indicators. Taiwanese companies have been talking much about ESG, but how should the top management, core cadres, or the young people who are about to enter the workplace understand the gap among society, business and individuals?
The year 2000 marked not only a turn of the century, but also a turning point for industrial development. The dotcom bubble that began in March 2000 brought people back to reality. With the accession of Taiwan and China to the World Trade Organization in 2001, many Taiwanese factories moved to China. Mass production and manufacturing became the core topics of Taiwan's industrial expansion. The iPhone, which started to hit store shelves in 2007, marked another wave of the booming industry. Apple almost seized all the benefits of the mobile phone industry. Taiwanese firms could make a fortune by simply focusing on Apple-related products. Apple's iPhones have not only changed consumer behavior, but given China, with a population of 1.4 billion, a key role in the global supply chain.
In the past, Taiwanese could be regarded as having talents if they succeeded in cost control and efficiency improvement. But since the 2009 financial disaster, China has overtaken Japan as the world's second-largest economy. But China is more ambitious than that. China has exerted efforts in many aspects, from launching Tianhe-2 supercomputer to BeiDou navigation satellite system, to developing quantum technology, AI…etc. All these have brought about remarkable success.
China is also funneling in massive funds trying to seize a strategic foothold for its semiconductor industry. Chinese president Xi Jinping said the Pacific Ocean is big enough to accommodate China and the US. But the US would not tolerate another supower on the other side of the ocean. The US-China tension that started with Trump's ban has been getting even intense ever since. The G2 race has reshaped the framework for the next generation of industrial development.
We have anticipated the emergence of regionalized markets and decentralized production systems which would trigger radical changes in the patterns of hardware and software integration, local business opportunities and even capital financing. How to enlighten students of engineering majors about the changes in the world? How to let business school students understand the operation models of the technology industry. All these topics are the basics for training cross-industry talent.
The historian Eric Hobsbawm once said Cambridge University was a place to cultivate leaders, not experts. TSMC founder Morris Chang said that Harvard's college education gave him basic values. His academic life at MIT was very boring, but gave him the survival skills. As for the period at Stanford University where he earned his doctorate, it was a pleasant learning process. Perhaps, when Chang entered Stanford, he was already a 30-year-old experienced young manager who understood the value of management which allowed him to enrich his learning experience.
(Editor's note: This is part of a series of analysis of Taiwan's role in the global ICT industry.)