Entrepreneurial founder of the Haier Group.
Recipient of the Thinkers50 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ranked in 2021.
#15 (2019), #26 (2017) and #38 (2015).
Recipient of the Thinkers50 2015 Ideas into Practice Award.
A world-renowned entrepreneur, Zhang is the creator of an innovative business model that blends the essence of traditional Chinese culture with modern western business concepts. Once a devotee of the Six Sigma approach, as championed by CEO of General Electric (GE), Jack Welch, Zhang has developed his own management ideology: Rendanheyi. By dividing a company up into micro-enterprises on an open platform and dismantling the traditional ‘empire’ system of management, Rendanheyi creates ‘zero distance’ between employee and the needs of the customer. At the core of Rendanheyi is the cultivation of entrepreneurship: by removing the costly level of middle management (Zhang famously eliminated the positions of 10,000 employees), you encourage innovation, flexibility, and risk-taking.
In 1984, Zhang became director of the Qingdao Refrigerator Factory, the predecessor of Haier. Over 30 years, he turned a small, collectively-owned factory with a 1.47 million yuan loss into a global enterprise, with a turnover of 188.7 billion yuan (2015). In 1998, Zhang became the first Chinese entrepreneur to give a speech at Harvard. In 2016, he sealed a $5.4 billion deal with GE to buy General Electric Appliances (GEA). Haier is now the world’s number one white goods brand.
Haier Purpose (Infinite Ideas, 2017); Why Haier is Reorganising Itself around the Internet of Things (Strategy+Business, Issue 91, Summer 2018); Haier is the Sea (Machine Industry Press, 2015); Raising Haier (Harvard Business Review, February 2007 issue).
“Hugely influential management thinker, entrepreneur, and business philosopher.”
Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove, Thinkers50