There is a palpable sense of identity to the Hong Kong people- an easily recognisable gritty swagger in the way they carry themselves. Traditional Hong Kongers are similar to New Yorkers in this sense; they aren’t necessarily rude, but it’s everyone for themselves. No-nonsense, hardworking, proud of their roots. The legacy of British administration can be seen in Hong Kong’s legal system, working language, urban planning, food and culture- but one seemingly Anglo-free area of influence lies in the conduct of business.

The language of business in Hong Kong is largely Confucian in nature, where respect for seniority and a focus on collectivism take precedence over other, perhaps, more important aspects of leadership. Traditional management style in Hong Kong comes in the form of diluted paternalism; the recent advent of Western business ideals have opened up discussion between employers and employees more, but instructions and opinions given from higher-ups are still generally expected to be carried out without much debate. 

We live in a globalised world today; continents have never seemed closer, foreign languages feel less alien-like and from a business perspective, the range of locations in which regional offices can be set up has grown exponentially. Data centers have cemented their importance in being essential to the operation of any company which requires large amounts of data- of which most do. Geographically, data centers companies are largely headquartered in North America and across Asia, but the flexibility of infrastructure and demand in selected regions have enabled companies to leave multiple addresses for physical facilities. 

This begs the question, how do organisation leaders operate, manage, and plan in the industry? The stereotype of a capable leader is that of the anti-thespian: he or she has to be able to remain calm and collected in tricky situations, balance relationships and blueprint future actions from a rational perspective. 

What Works?

Business culture in Hong Kong is unique; although largely traditional and based on Ruism, the city’s destination and history has attracted migrants from other parts of Asia and beyond, resulting in a unique melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. Traditional values such as respect for seniority and collectivism remain the core principles of business interaction- individuals are encouraged to perceive themselves as smaller cogs of a larger system, whereby a rigid, hierarchical system is observed; newer employees often look to senior business leaders for cues of approval before bringing up certain opinions or suggestions, or sometimes not at all, depending on the individual. 

This practice is largely rooted in Confucian beliefs, and can also be found in societies like Japan and Korea. Where Hong Kong starts to diverge, however, can be found in the city’s embodiment for pluralism, an ideology that recognises and affirms diversity within a political body. Besides the Chinese making up the majority of Hong Kong’s population, the city has a healthy population of British and Indian minorities scattered throughout the city, a by-product of its colonial past. In recent years, Filipino, Indonesian and other Southeast Asian communities have also grown in the city, resulting in a culturally-rich metropolis. 

Pandas And Lions

Thought leaders of data centers are always zoomed-in on innovative ways to create customer value and increase efficiency. From managing operations to keeping up with ESG standards, leaders must be able to scrutinise and monitor activities across facilities and locations, all the whilst juggling ways to optimise capital spending and plans for further development. Data centers are essentially a service, albeit on a massive scale that has reached the status of being an industrial and economic commodity. Like any service-based business, clients remain at the top of the pyramidical priority, and an organisation’s actions in meeting its clients needs are guided by its values. 

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s 2022 Global Data Center Market Comparison report, Hong Kong places sixth as one of two Asian regions on the list, while Singapore is tied at second place with three  U.S. states. Both cities share a number of similarities; a multi-ethnic population with English as a working language, a society with roots based in Confucianism and an attractive, world-class, business-friendly infrastructure. Whilst the benefits of good infrastructure and English as a working language are obvious to data center leaders, perhaps the working culture of Hong Kong and Singapore has also provided the ideal climate for the industry to flourish. 

Tick Tock

The values and approach required in successful data center management are naturally embodied in the two cities’ business culture. The tradition of working together towards a common goal, rather than individualistic ideas, is a healthy reflection of the industry ideal, and the existing respect for seniority lends a hand in ensuring neat operational and man-management. Simultaneously, both cities are near-innately accepting of an international workspace and its accompanying habits, providing just enough flexibility for change when needed. 

It might be tacky-sounding, but Hong Kong is a rare case of East-meets-West. With Chinese influence and investment pouring into the city however, societal and business culture look to eventually lean towards the East at a steeper angle, albeit not for a long time. 

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