John & Doris Naisbitt: The Heart of Megatrends [Transcript]

Walter: While coaching leaders for the past 25 years, I’ve always been fascinated by the question of how we move beyond our many crises into our full potential as human beings, as organizations and as whole societies. In this television series I take you on a journey around the world to meet with some of the most innovative leaders to explore with them what is at the heart of this new paradigm of leadership. Interestingly, what they discovered is that working on their inner development is the key to both their personal satisfaction and their powerful impact in the world.


John: The secret of doing business in China, of getting things done that you want to get done or learning about China is trust.


Doris: There is something to it that you, you, that once you make the emotional connection, the facts are much easier to understand.


John: Essentially what Deng Xiaoping said at the beginning was, I can’t do it. I can’t reform this country; I can’t bring this country back to its greatness. The government can’t do it. Only the people can do it.


Walter: Today I speak with John & Doris Naisbitt about the story behind China’s rapid rise. For the past 3 decades, John has been the world’s most successful analyst of global trends. Already his first book, the 1982 bestseller Megatrends sold 40 million copies in 57 countries. The quality of John’s analysis is also based on his experience as a hands-on leader in both business and government. His wife Doris is a former CEO of a publishing house, and currently the director of the Naisbitt China Institute, as well as a professor at two Chinese Universities. They recently co-authored several books about China, including ‘China’s Megatrends: The 8 Pillars of a New Society,’ and ‘Innovation in China: The Chengdu Triangle.’ Together we are also co-creating the China Innovation Platform. For today’s dialogue I visit them at their home in Austria where Doris and John offer us their particular insights into the Heart of China’s Innovation.

Walter: Working with global leadership for the last decades one thing I noticed is that terms like diversity have become much more popular. But in my experience they often are more a nice idea but then when it actually comes to difference, people are much less interested in diversity when there is a real difference, a difference they don’t like. And it seems like what we are facing as a challenge in the global world is that there are very significant differences and that we need to learn how to make use of these differences even integrate them as a richness on the basis of the fact that we also share a common humanity. I wonder what you have learned in the many years of living in so many different cultures and writing about them, about that integration of on the one hand the richness of diversity and on the other hand our shared humanity.


John: Well, I’m very devoted to the idea of the richness of diversity and diversity is making a comeback. That is to say as a popular idea, and it’s an idea that is increasingly embraced, and that is because of the new mantra – innovation. Innovation is the mantra for companies, for countries; China among many others wants to become an innovative country and so on, and we know, and this is kind of a shared idea – that one of the keys to innovation is diversity. If you get the same kinds of people with the same values and the same experience and the same education then throw them together you’re not going to get a hell of a lot of innovation. But it’s the playing off of different ideas, different points of view, different mindsets that creates new ideas and new advances.


John: The reason the United States is such a successful country is because of diversity, because of immigration and so on. And this kind of backlash that’s going on now to diversity just when China, just when China also, but just when the United States needs it most is really really counterproductive to what’s happened, to what’s going on globally.


Walter: But what does it take beyond the nice idea of that diversity is important to actually bear the difference. What does it take in terms of human maturity? To be able to do that and to see this difference as a richness?


Doris: I think you said one word, you said to mature, to mature. And if we come down to a smaller scale, and you mentioned leadership of course, there have been so many books written on leadership, on managing, on how to run a company, how to treat people, that we practically, would not need to have one single lousy boss, or one employee who is not engaged and passionate about his job. The problem is that I think why theoretically we agree to many things, in praxis we don’t apply it to our own life. Somebody who runs a company might say yes, I encourage my people to do whatever they like, and to contribute to the company, but its only accepted if it is according to the thinking of the boss in the moment that he’s, he’s – he feels his authority is endangered by a strong personality in the company, that company, that person gets hammered down. There’s this Japanese saying, the nail that stands out gets hammered down. [The Chinese have a similar one, yeah.] And despite the culture or the theory of ‘let the people grow, let the people develop and let them contribute,’ cause you can only contribute if you have something that you have developed. The moment in many companies you see that within colleagues, the moment somebody goes above average, fear comes in that this person gets stronger. So then the fight against this individuality, this diversity starts. And that’s in fact harming personal relationship, where the same happens, its harmful in companies and of course in politics you have the same.


Walter: In the 20 years that I’ve known you John, what has struck me with you always is your incredible openness of mind, and your interest in new things, new cultures, new topics and kind of opening into them, exploring them, and keeping your mind open for new possibilities. And you actually have written a whole book about mindsets and one of them is the mindset that its the most creative, the most effective to not have to be right. So I wonder what you could say to us more about this and also how that developed through your own personal life experience.


John: I think that, first of all, I have an innocent eye. Still, having been, grown up in a small sugar cane farm, a little village of 200 people in Utah, and so I have, I still have that innocent eye being open and seeing things. Secondly, I’m just trying to think this through now. Secondly, I think it’s that this, we talked about the mindset and how it powerful it is to not have to be right, I’m not looking to be right about anything. I want to know what the new connections are what the new directions are and I can’t care what they are, if I care what they are, then I’m going to shape that. I sometimes welcome lots of changes, and regret others, but I can’t have that as part of the process of really thinking about the world is reshaping itself and changing itself and so forth. I just have to let the world tell me and be as close a student as possible… You can’t know, Walter, you just can’t know. But at some point, you have to make a judgment of some kind. And in making that judgment, I tried to make that judgment in response to what I’m witnessing, not in response to what I might have liked to see, or want to see, or care about seeing. Later I might have a comment about it, but I just, I let the world write the book, I let what’s happening in the world write the book. I don’t write the book.



Walter: So you have been going to China in your case 10 years, in your case several decades. And you spent last, this year alone 14 trips already there. What is it that turns you on so much by China and how has that relationship that you are developing with the country and that people develop with this many years?


John: Well, my association with China when I first went there in ’67, was curiosity. I was just curious about this country and it was pretty primitive I must say, at the time. But I’ve been there many many times since over the years and Doris and I’ve been about a hundred times in the last ten years. That, in the process I’ve started to meet the people, and I guess it was the people that really got me interested. The people are very loving. And contrary to what we might, ideas we might have, but on an interpersonal level they’re very loving, they’re people who I’ve seen this welling up of excitement as they, they got their personal freedoms and they were able to think about things and go to the schools they wanted and get the jobs they wanted, and how excited they got about it. And the almost euphoria among the people in China, and that’s very captivating. Its really extraordinary to see a whole people just rise up from this pathetic, primitive kind of condition to the condition China is today, one of the most modern countries, certainly the most modern cities in the world. The most exciting arts scene, cultural scene, in addition to all the other things that are going on. Its just totally captivating, and once, and everything else pales, that’s it. The other countries, to go keep visiting some other country, pales by comparison.


Walter: So in ‘Megatrends China’ you compare China and its development with that of a corporation. So I wonder what can leaders in business and society in general learn from the development of that huge corporation called China?


John: Well, it makes clear evidently, that the process can be applied to a scale that its never been applied to before. I mean, the scale of, in both ways, both with 1.3 billion people which is larger than most corporations, and in the sense of how far they had to come. They were right down on the ground, totally bankrupt and going from there to, going up that height that they rose is probably greater than we’ve ever seen in any other institution or company for that matter. At the same time keeping in mind, doing it with such an incredible scale.


Doris: When we were starting to write ‘Megatrends,’ of course we wrote ‘China’s Megatrends,’ we were thinking about how, what do we feel when we look at China? And one of the examples that we were very impressed with was one of the state owned companies which was a run-down company and then was turned around its today a very well known company, Haya. And in a way, what happened at Haya was the same as what happened with China, and that’s how our comparison began. Because if you look at a company or at a country which is down and at the heels, you cannot, the CEO cannot just give orders and say, “Ok, let’s fix the company.’ He has to engage the people, so that the people, so that the workforce makes it their own goal as well as the company goal. [And commitments.] And commit….without identification with the company, and without having a share, you don’t commit. So just like Haya engaged and first woke up the people and said ‘Look! What a mess you have here!’ And pull up your sleeves and start working, but I will also empower you. I give you the freedom to contribute. And that’s, that was one of the first thing that China did, that China’s leadership did. They empowered the people to get their share on the economic development. Of course, it wasn’t from one day to the other that the freedom economically was as it is today, it was a process. But certainly without this identification with building up our company, our China, it could not have happened.


John: One of the questions I would ask the people in the West is consider that the Soviet Union and later Russia, the Soviet Union and China both gave up Communism at the end of the 20th century. And if you don’t think China gave up Communism you have to go to China, because China is not a Communist country. It’s a Communist party, but it’s not a Communist country. But here are two countries that gave up Communism at the end of the 20th century, and what then, what happened? After that, when they gave it up, what happened? Russia is stuck in the mud, financed by energy, natural resources and gas and that’s pretty much it. China has gone from a hundred and forty seventh in the world, to number two in the world, and how did they do that? The answer is the people. The people were kind of, kind of released; they were kind of emancipated to do their thing. And it’s very much in the American sense of doing their thing. Within a larger frame of where the country was going.


John: It was the people who made this incredible difference in the two huge countries that gave up Communism, to where they are today. So, the question is, let’s get to know these people. Who are they, what do they do, what do they think? What gives them the energy? What gives them the heart? After all of these years of horrible living to do this? And that’s what really gets us.


Walter: Which brings up the term of respect, which I think is very central to our capacity to connect with people all around the world but in particular also to China which has lived through what are considered the centuries of humiliation in which it wasn’t respected as a culture that’s thousands of years old, and was under the colonial thumb of foreign nations, and now that it has freed itself and is demonstrating to the world its incredible capacity for innovation, growth and change, it is adamant to be respected and to be treated with respect and understanding.


John: Yeah, I believe that’s a good characterization of this, because they talk about the hundred years of humiliation, including the Opium Wars and the Japanese invasions and all that, against as you say their five thousand years of really extraordinary history and so forth. And they say that we’re never going to be humiliated again, like that. So they’re very, they’re very sensitive about that and often they will over react to some slight that we would describe as a slight but for them its much more important than that. So it seems like they’re really way overreacting, going over the top, but its grounded in this history, and its grounded in this shared feeling of this great country that led the world for hundreds of years, as the biggest economy in the world and so forth, that that we were subject to this kind of humiliation, and its kind of a shared humiliation. And they are not going to be humiliated again. They’ve become, they’re very proud, very… someone said that China’s religion is its history.


John: And they’re very proud of that history – rightfully so. And they’re very protective of it. And they’re really expecting and some cases demanding respect for this great country that’s now risen again in the world.


Doris: Yep, you know, wouldn’t we, if I just picture myself, if I would have been living in the mud thirty years ago, and by my own efforts would have dug myself out of the mud, and achieved a lot of things, then you want people at least to acknowledge that you did that. But if then people constantly would point at you and say you’re bad, then that’s what is the mistake of the West. Yes, China makes mistakes, yes, China is over-reacting, yes, Chinese do not have the same freedom as people, freedom of speech or freedom after speech as does the West, but they have gone such a long way. And it’s a step-by-step problem. And it’s in a rapid speed any way.


Walter: What’s at the core of this incredible capacity to pull themselves out of the mud, as you say? That leads to not just this incredible productivity that we are seeing, but also a continuous increase in the level of what is being produced. The incredible increase of patents, the success in the art world, the success in sports… this innovation beyond what anybody imagined could happen in such a short time. What’s at the core of that?


John: I’m laughing because we wrote a whole book about that. The subtitle of which is ‘The 8 Pillars of a New Society.’ And of course the godfather so to speak, to use a western phrase for the Chinese, was Deng Xiaoping, and the first pillar is the emancipation of the mind. The emancipation of individuals to think for themselves, to make the contributions they want to make the society free to chase after dreams, that they weren’t able to before. Essentially what Deng Xiaoping said at the beginning was, “I can’t do it, I can’t reform this country, I can’t bring this country back to its greatness, the government can’t do it. Only the people can do it. So we have to embark on a strategy and a program that emancipates and frees the people to do it. Its under certain strictures and that’s been loosening up and loosening up as we go along. But what Deng Xiaoping recognized was that only the people could do it, when you get right down to it, and so we’ve got to have our arrangements so that the people are free to contribute individually.


Walter: In the many decades that you have been going to China, and with all your work around Megatrends China, you have also spent a lot of time in schools and university and with students and teachers. And written about the dynamic changes that are taking place in the educational system. Give us a feeling for how that change looks like.


John: Well I think we have to start, with our first impressions. You know we talked to thousands and thousands of especially high school students but also university students and others. And I remember the first several times that we ran into hugest classrooms, we saw all these eager kids and just shiny and so bright and so bouncy and alive and so forth, and we were, it was like there was so much energy. What you have to understand about China in a big general way is there’s innovation going on everywhere. In the West there’s the mantra is certainly innovation but it’s mostly in business and technology and so forth, but in China, there’s innovation in the social areas, in the governments areas.


John: In business, everywhere, and they all, it sort of feeds on each other. And in education, there’s especially a lot of innovation going on, a lot of experimentation. And in XieXia high school which is our favorite high school in China, its also in Chengdu, one of our, I guess our favorite city in China – XieXia high school is 2,151 years old of uninterrupted teaching of students. Its in the same location its been in for more than 2,000 years, and its a beautiful campus and we were there quite recently in September I guess, and we witnessed

some of the experiments going on. Its interesting too that in almost all of the high schools that we go to and all of the primary schools that we go to, English is being taught, and now its being taught at the beginning of the second and third grade. In all of the high schools that we’ve been to, all of the kids speak some English. All of them speak some English. And a few are fluent in English. And at XieXia high school, there are kids who take their entire curriculum in English. And we were in a classroom recently where they were simultaneously teaching a subject and English. It happened to be about global warming and climate considerations and so forth, it was taught in English, and then the commentary made by the teacher and by the students and voluntarily was made in English, they wanted to explain in English their reaction to some of the substantive materials that they were dealing with. But English is really integrated here in your, but your example was an example of something else which is very interesting.


Doris: I think the huge shift in education is that it goes from top-down to an interactive teaching. What I was recently reading a book about Cleopatra and everybody thinks you know Cleopatra was so successful in her political things, because she was so beautiful. She was average looking, but she was educated in the Greek tradition of debate. And she was extremely eloquent. She could talk her way to the goal. And that’s what the Chinese education system is missing totally. There is no history of debate. What’s brought into the school system now is this debating. Arguing for and against something, and that makes a big shift.


John: The really big change – what you say is certainly true – but the really big change is student participation. Before you just poured all the information into the students. You know, the great definition of education I think is the one that the great Irish playwright Yeats, William Butler Yeats said… He said education is not filling a bucket, it’s lighting a fire. And in China education for decades, for thousands of years has been filling a bucket. And they have just come in, they just fill the bucket. And there’s no participation, no resistance, from part of the students. But now that’s being changed so there’s participation back and forth, and there’s 1/3 – 1/3 -1/3 experiment that’s going on, not only in XieXia high school but in many high schools in Chengdu, is that instead of having the entire curriculum all day long be filling buckets, they, and having exam driven rote learning, they divide it into these three thirds. What?


Doris: I was just thinking…Ok yeah, go ahead.


John: You want to make it four thirds? One third is rote learning – you need to know certain things. And you need to be tested, you know the basics. But the second third is student and teacher interaction about talking about what we’ve been learning and what we think about it. And the third, and this is really way ahead of everyone in the world I think, is a third of the curriculum is student to student, talking about what they’ve been learning and what they think about. And that’s really a very radical departure, not only in education in general, but certainly, certainly a radical departure for how it’s been in China for thousands of years.



Walter: And you’ve been writing also about the increasing experiments with grassroots democracy with trying to bring more and more people into a process that allows the election of local officials, decisions about local projects, and also engagement with each other about political economic cultural topics. Tell us more about how that actually works and you’re your experience has been.


John: We’ve been to villages where a campaign was actually was going on, and they have banners with slogans, mostly about democracy and get rid of corruption, let the people decide. And things like that. And the, at this particular village we were at last September, they were, the candidates for the five places, seven candidates, however many there were, each could make a ten minute speech and then they would answer questions. It was a little awkward you know, they were a little clumsy about it, but just as you say, they were really trying to figure this out and see how it works and so it sort of, its sort of touching to see how awkward they are about trying this new kind of idea out, of actually electing, who’s going to run their village for their benefit.


John: The scale is really extraordinary. Today in 800,000 villages, 800,000 villages there are elections for local leaders of those villages. That’s happening in China today, right now, as we sit here.




Doris: Yeah of course when everybody asks us, everybody says, but China doesn’t have a democracy, and we have been thinking because China does have a democratization process. I think what we have to be careful about is we cannot say that China has a democracy like the West which has been created more than 200 years ago. China is at the beginning of creating a democracy. And what it does in this process, is that it merges seemingly un-… [Contradictory] …seemingly contradictory things to a whole. As John said before, when they started their reforms, they merged communism and market economy. And capitalism. And what they do not know is they are mixing the efficiency of an autocracy with the participation of democracy. So on one hand, you keep the advantage of strategic planning where you can really set goals which are in the interest of the country. And of the people free of election-driven thinking. And on the other hand, in these goals that you set, you increasingly involve the people and have their participation so that it’s not a top down system, but a system which works by the interplay of top down directions and bottom up initiatives.


Walter: Can you give us a concrete example that you think shows how well this emerging innovative system of participation works in China?


John: The example is that China in thirty years went from absolute dirt poverty, 147th GDP in the world, to number 2 in the world.


Doris: I think what Walter was talking about was a concrete example, for example…


John: That’s a concrete example.


Doris: Yeah, but its too big.


John: He can say… I want a tiny example, he said I want an example and by God, that’s ‘the’ example. We go to Russia a lot and why do we go to Russia a lot? Because the Russians want to know how the Chinese did it. How’d they do it?


Doris: But after the big example of how the whole China went from dirt poor to number two economy, an example for example is the Magiv, I hope I pronounce it right, the Magiv train in Shanghai.


John: Maglev.


Doris: Maglev. How when the people started to protest against it, how in old days, you know, we build that train and no matter what you think. But now when the people are protesting, and when the people are, have reason, reasonable reasons to be against something, the government listens and they back off. Even if it’s a very prestigious thing. Like the Maglev project.


Walter: Which was cancelled after protests against…


Doris: Yes.


John: Now, what other people, what people in the West don’t know about is the consultative nature of this early democracy that the Chinese are building. And an instrument, which is well known in China, is the CPPCC, which stands for, and everyone sputters it off all the time, CPPCC, which stands for Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference. And they’re in all provinces, and these are citizens we would say from the civil society, who, who are increasingly vetting proposed legislation of the central committee. Central committee now very often sends off, its not only having hearings on projects, like the Maglev project, but also housing projects, building a bridge and so on. We write about those in our book. But not only that, its like tax legislation, and other kind of legislation where they send the draft legislation from the national parliament, to the consultative committees around the country to get their feedback if they proceed in this process. That’s being developed really very importantly in China, and people, no one even in the West even knows about that.


Walter: The two of you have of course described you know in great detail the economic and technological advances of China, but you also are talking about the increasing search for meaning that is emerging in China maybe particularly among younger people and people that have experienced increased material success. Tell us more about how you experience that kind of spiritual search for a deeper meaning of life.


John: Well it’s the old expression, is ‘is this all there is?’ You know, is this all there is to life? Its the search for meaning in life, its not different, you know what I said, you know that our similarities are much greater than our differences. We found as we travelled around the world, and certainly in China where the expectation is that people are really different; they’re not really different. And they’re as often perplexed by the same things that perplex us, or they’re challenged by the same things that challenge us…


Doris: I was just reminded of the mail I got where the girl or boy, with Chinese names you can’t say is this a girl or boy, and there was a very simple question – ‘Could you please tell me, what is the meaning of life?’


John: No problem! laughs.


Walter: In a word…


John: By return mail!


Walter: What I’m learning in being with you is that there is a whole other side to approaching, that you really need an integral, a holistic way of approaching China that includes the humanity of the day to day life of people in China. That isn’t only described by the human rights situation, or by the productivity of their factories. But that is described by an increasing opening and experimentation and a strong change of the day-to-day life of people who need to be understood also as people not just as anonymous mass of productivity.


John: Well, the Chinese too, the Chinese start with relationships and with connections. In the West we often do business with other people and with other companies and as a result of doing business with them we become friends. In China, it’s upside-down, for us. Right-side up for them. But in China, you really become friends first and because you’re friends and because you have trust then you do business, and that’s why a lot of people in the West just don’t quite understand this long dance that’s done to getting to know each other. But that’s very very important, these personal relationships are very important for most Chinese, and that’s been our experience, and the secret of doing business in China of getting things done that you want to get done, or learning about China, is trust. Once you establish trust between the people you’re with or want to be with, and so on, then other things follow. But trust is the base.


Walter: Both of you are not only writing very successful books for leaders, you are also leaders in your own right. You have made very significant shifts throughout your life, changing the way of life, the countries you live in and also the work you’re doing. So what’s motivating you, what’s guiding you in these significant changes?


John: A sort of adventure, I guess. Actually as I think about it, I was going to say, you know some opportunities present themselves but sometimes you create them. One of the biggest moves I made, after I was in Washington, then I went with IBM and I was working with the chairman of IBM, Tom Watson, and at age 39 my entrepreneurial genes kicked in and I decided to leave this wonderful job that lots of people might kill for, working in a chairman’s office, to start my own company, and lots of people thought I was absolutely crazy, including the mother of my children. In any case, it was an adventure, it really was an adventure, and so I took my last paycheck from IBM and I used it to start my own research company, Urban Research Corporation by name. And it was a great adventure, and after I left IBM, I remember on the third day I recalled saying to myself I can never go back, because I’m doing, running my own company, I’m making the decisions, I’m responding to what I think are the needs or the opportunities in the society, and I’m in charge of that, I’m in charge of my life, really. And I’d been working as an assistant to lots of people along the way, and so I thought well maybe I can become the principal and have my own assistants, but from the time I went in the Marine Corps until I was at IBM I was working for someone else. And when I left and I started my own company for the first time and this now forty years, more than forty years ago, I’ve been working for myself.


Walter: It sounds like you had both had a gut reaction, you had a reflective process and also you felt some kind of passion in your heart.


John: Oh, absolutely. You can’t make such a leap and such a questionable leap in the minds of a lot of people unless you really are passionate about it, and you really know in your heart that this is the thing that you have to do, and that you can do successfully.


Walter: So in other words listening to the heart is an important part of your leadership, the way leadership arose in you.


John: Well, I always say, I always expand it a little bit, I always say its really important to listen to your body. To listen to your whole being as it were, not only your heart. That’s an important part obviously. But to just sort of, your own, to listen to where you’re pulled. You know, Freud said and I’ve always held on to this, he’s absolutely right he said, only in the small decisions can you afford to say here are the pros, here’s why I should do it, here’s why I shouldn’t do it, make lists. On the big decisions, you must just do it. Just, where your gut tells you because that’s instructed by all the stuff in the back of your head that you’ve accumulated over a lifetime, and I thought that was sensational advice because I resonated with it a lot. So I tend to just hear, listen to my body, my heart, my mind and so on and say where does it say I should go? And just respond to that.


Walter: How about for you, Doris?


Doris: In a very short way, I could say I was building up my dreams, my life in the three parts in my life. First I was building up my dreams, then I was burying them, and then when it really seemed too late, I made them come true. I was, I was, I wanted to become an actress, and I at the time when I was sixteen, seventeen, after I made the test at the acting school, I got one of Austria’s most famous actresses – she became my mentor. And she was guiding me. And I had all the, the basics you can have with her guiding me. And I was 20 when she said now its time for you to really start your career, and I became pregnant. And I decided to have the child, and I dropped everything because my circumstances. The marriage that I then had didn’t allow me to have a career and take care of the child I would have had to give her to some caretaker, and I didn’t want that. So I dropped my dreams. And for 17 years, I was a housewife. Not a very happy housewife, but I made the best out of it. But after 17 years, and interestingly I was 39 years old when that happened too.


John: Same age that I left IBM!


Doris: I thought, ‘now it’s enough.’ But I had nothing for the corporate world to offer, because you know having studied acting and having worked as a director’s assistant, I mean who cares for that in a practical business world? But then also, you know when you look back in life, you see that there’s kind of a red line, something happens that you don’t know why it happens. But it guides you to a certain point. And a friend of mine saw a talent for selling and she brought me to a publishing house where I started as a salesperson for advertisements. And then in the publishing house I made a very quick career. And the decisions made were always that something was pulling me. I had the feeling that for example the house I left in the second stage, I had an offer to become part of the board of the board of the company, they had twenty seven publications, that would have been a huge step financially very interesting, but something pulled me back to the other house. And I didn’t know what it was, and I remember I was sitting, I had switched back to the house where I had started, where I became head of the house, and I thought, I must be crazy. I must be crazy. What am I doing here? Here you left a house with twenty-seven publications, look what was in front of you! But if I wouldn’t have left that house, I would have never got to know him.


John: Him – that’s me!


Doris: Laughs. I would have never got to know John, because that house had magazines and newspapers, but it didn’t have books. And by going back to the other house I started to be involved in the book publishing. And that at a certain point, brought us together, when I was chasing after him as an author. So I think that we should first of all never listen to when people say its over, in your age, you’re not able to change your life. It’s not true. You can change your life at any time. You just got to jump, and the jumping is sometimes very hard to do. And you have to, to have the guts. But without that, you can’t do it.


Walter: So now, you are working closely together, you are writing together, you are travelling around the world giving speeches. I understand in a recent television show in China you were introduced as China’s most famous couple. [And that startled us good.] And my understanding about this is its not only that you are well known as authors, but that you are well known as a team, as a couple that there is a great appreciation among the Chinese that a man and a woman work together so well, and at the same time have a love relationship and obviously have a real partnership. So say something about your partnership but also why that is so inspirational for the Chinese at this stage of their own development as a culture and as a country.


John: Well, I think its because, if I may go ahead on this, I think its because it mirrors an aspiration that they have. Before a young person in their twenties or thirties or a boy in his twenties or thirties before that, their parents had no choice. They could not choose a career, they could not choose whether they went to certain education or not. But now everything’s open.



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