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Haier in 2014: An entrepreneurial juggernaut facing a world of platforms and ecosystems

By Michael Jacobides, Lisa Duke


Until the 2010s, China had been known for inexpensive products and efficient, low-cost production and for copycat or OEM products rather than for leading-edge innovation. Yet, in a few short years, Chinese firms turned to quality and innovation, drastically increasing their market share. A shining example of Chinese success, by 2008 Haier had become the biggest retailer of large household appliances in the world. Yet as consumer electronics changed and competition intensified, Zhang Ruimin, the CEO who had led the company from near-bankruptcy in 1984 to the top spot from 2008 to 2014, wanted Haier to go further. How could he push it to become a truly innovative global company; one that competed on the basis of new-product innovation. What would it take for Haier to leap into first place?

Learning objectives

  • Consider the choices facing a company to better identify and serve consumer needs.
  • Explore how to use organisation (re)design to revive a firm and how to combat bureaucracy, and evaluate the merits and demerits of different systems, more or less centralised and more or less entrepreneurial (vs supportive).
  • Illustrate the challenges of shifting from products to broad ‘webs’ of needs, and in particular the shift from product lines to ecosystems.
  • Understand the mechanics and inter-organisational arrangements that can make flexible but complex structures work.
  • Consider how to manage an entrepreneurial force within a firm and what the trade-offs are – especially as they relate to ecosystems.
  • Be able to identify the challenges of becoming an ecosystem player and the different configurations – to centralise or decentralise.
  • Learn how to evaluate whether structures can be ‘translated’ from one area to another and from one region to another – with a focus on a leading Chinese firm.


Publication Date: July 2020
LBS Case Code: CS-20-012
Subjects: , , ,
Industry: , ,
Geography: ,
Pages: 13
Format: pdf