Mr. Li named one of the world’s greatest living business minds by Forbes
29 September 2017
1. Learn from your mistakes: “What is your biggest mistake – and what did you learn from it?”
Like everyone I have made mistakes in life. I have been fortunate. Most have not had great consequences. I would let others judge which was my biggest.
2. Choose your mentor well: “Other than your parents, who was your most important mentor and why?”
I have always found inspiration in books, like a true mentor guiding me. I like movies too, it ignites my imagination and I love experiencing life through many characters.
3. Mind your reputation: “How you build and guard your reputation?”
People value that reputation is built on principles. I think people should have a list of their mission and things that they would never do.
4. Pursue happiness: In the first issue of Forbes, B.C. Forbes wrote: “Business was originated to produce happiness, not pile up millions.” Talk about how you have balance the two—or put one in front of the other.
When I received the Forbes’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, I shared with everyone that my charitable foundation, founded in 1980, is like my third son to me. I hoped to persuade those who can, in Asia, support causes important to society as a duty in line with supporting our children. Our collective effort can build a society that is just, equitable and fairly shared by all.
5. Constantly reinvent yourself: “How do you stay relevant?”
We need to stay curious about new thing, new technology and new possibilities. Solving problems could be fun and fruitful.
6. Where do you think the world is going in the next 100 years?
I wish I knew. I wish I had a crystal ball too.
7. What do you think the best innovation of the past 100 years has been?
We are living in the information age. Claude Shannon proposed that data should be measured in “Bits” that enabled a democratization of knowledge and information.
8. What is the biggest lesson you have learned in business or in life?
My experience in manufacturing taught me cash flow is the lifeblood of a company, and one of the best safeguards for a company’s future. Between 1999 and 2000, when everyone saw the 3G development in Europe as a goldmine, it was overhyped. All through the spectrum auction, I directed our team to adhere to our cash flow projection and only advance with cautious deliberation. I knew everyone thought I was too conservative and challenged this mandate. But in retrospect our telecom businesses remain competitive while several of those companies that won the bid were stuck. Writing a check to invest $100 is easy, returning the same to shareholders is harder. That’s why I am a strong believer in advancing with cautious deliberation. Prudence and agility, creativity and innovation will give you the edge to thrive in uncertain times.
9. Do you still think this is true and can you expand on it? (This is from the interview he did with Russell in 2012) “Businesspeople in general shouldn’t have an overly narrow view of their industry. They need a 360-degree perspective and to look at everything from all possible angles.”
One has to maintain one’s own principle and perspectives in assessing different situations.
10. Can you talk about what you meant when you said a person investing in technology will feel younger? Do you think staying in touch with technology developments is key for all people in different industries and helps them see the future?
Disruptive technologies are simply fascinating, keep on challenging our present mindset to imagine the future and, in this way, try to solve today’s problem with a vision of tomorrow.