本文章刊登在CHINA DAILY-艾问专栏 中国日报刘松

Based on a research report by KPMGlast year, Alibaba has surpassed Facebook, Amazon, Google and other US tech firmsand become the world’s most impactful tech company. Among the 800 US corporateexecutives surveyed, Alibaba is the one that these executives were the mostconcerned of possibly destroying their companies in the future.

From their perspectives, Alibaba’s ability tobring about fundamental changes is simply demonstrated by: the courage toinnovate and attempt.

电商、移动支付、社交、云计算、大文娱、人工智能等等,阿里有过太多的尝试。作为一家市值近5000亿美元的互联网科技公司,阿里无疑是过去二十年全球最成功的公司之一,但阿里成功的路上也曾踏进过试错的泥沼,软件互联平台、天天动听、淘日本、来往、云博客… 都是阿里尝试过但并不成功的产品。
E-commerce, mobile payments, social networking,cloud computing, great entertainment, AI, etc., were all among Alibaba’scountless investment attempts. As an Internet technology company with a marketvalue of nearly USD 500 billion, Alibaba is undoubtedly one of the mostsuccessful companies in the world in the past two decades. However, Alibaba hasalso gone through trial and error on the road to success. Softwareinterconnection platform, TTPOD, TaoJapan.com, Laiwang, cloud blogs and soforth, are all the products that Alibaba tried promoting but failed.


Jack Ma mentioned that since thefounding of Alibaba, the company has experienced more than 1900 times offailures before achieving the accomplishments today. All failures are the bestnutrition, and how you view and rise from failures is the key.

Don’t be afraid of failure; be afraid of nolesson learned from failures. If you wish to win, you should come up with away.

Alibaba’s former CEO Zhe Wei told Gloria Aiabout a conversation he had with Jack Ma when Jack intended to poach him fromB&Q:

Zhe Wei: Alibaba will grow from a teamof a few thousand to tens of thousands, so I can contribute my experience ofexpanding from thousands to tens of thousands.

Jack Ma: You must never contribute your experience but lessons.If you could lead our team to avoid making the same mistakes previously madefrom expanding from thousands to tens of thousands, even if we make somemistakes on innovation, we will succeed.

In this issue of “iAsk·Top Leaders”,Gloria Ai interviewed Song Liu, Vice President of Alibaba, learning from thefailure and success of the company.


Desirable failure:

The strength of a companylies in Innovation and Resilience

Gloria Ai: I remember that Mr. Jack Ma had a very humorous comment, i.e. “disorderly vibrant”. In your opinion, among the trials and changes Alibaba has gone through, which ones worked out well and which ones did not?

Song Liu: In fact, many things did not work out well, including one of our most successful products recently, called “Ding Talk”, which is evolved from “Laiwang” that was a failure. I think the biggest strength in a company lies in innovation and resilience. The most important thing about a company is not whether it makes mistakes frequently, but whether it can succeed in the same field next time after making a mistake. This is a very crucial ability. It depends on whether the system enables you to gain all the lessons after making one mistake and rise from the failure next time. So Alibaba actually has made more mistakes than others.


Gloria Ai: Correct mistakes afterwards and materialize innovations. What’s the nature of such a powerful system?

刘松:本质我想有三个,第一个就是一以贯之的平台思维,这个就是我们思考说不仅仅是我做一个应用,解决一个问题,我是要解决一类大问题,这是第一个。第二个就是生态的思维,你要想到在这样的一个大的问题空间里面,哪些人能跟你一起解决那个问题,你的分工边界是什么? 把它规划出来。第三点是组织,之所以一个组织能够在一件事情摔倒,第二次的时候就能爬起来,能成功,其实是跟组织力是有很大的关系。
Song Liu: There’re three elements in essence in my opinion. Firstly, consistent platform thinking. It means that when we try to build a product or solve an issue, we need to solve it from the macro perspective. Secondly, ecosystem mentality. You need to think about who can work with you to solve the issue and what the boundaries are to assign responsibilities under such a major issue. You need to make plans. Thirdly, organizational capability. The reason why an organization would make mistakes once and rise up next time is closely related to the organizational capability.


Gloria Ai: During the process of continuous development, trial and error, has Alibaba ever deviated from its initial motivation?

Song Liu: Since the founding of Alibaba in 1999, Jack Ma’s initial motivation has not changed. There is no difficult business. He always believes that the Internet can compensate the need for matching commercial goods and services, as well as digitalization that rely on the Internet, which China lacked in the past economic era. He puts faith in credibility, too. Back in 2005, he envisioned that there should be a credibility system in China based on the Internet and data, which led to the emergence of Alipay and Sesame Credit.

So I think he actually believed in the network effect in the past ten years. He viewed the network as the Canton Fair that never closes.

Song Liu said: “The past 10 years have been the era of the mobile Internet, which connected people and goods. In the coming decade, the Internet will be further integrated with the physical world. New technologies such as big data, AI, and the Internet of Things will penetrate the process of industrial upgrading, which will bring about 100 times more opportunities than the consumption Internet.”

Since last year, “AIoT” has appeared more frequently in our life. In the industry’s view, with the introduction of the AI technology, IoT terminal equipment will be upgraded to various AIoT smart devices, and our life will move from “Everything Connected” to “Everything Smart”.


对于技术业态的变迁,刘松用一个词总结了未来的技术新常态,“ AIoT as a Service”。借助数据这种介质,AIoT作为一种基础性的服务,可以服务各行各业;未来的创新主体,要么构建这种服务,要么运用这种服务垂直行业。
As for the change of technological format, Song Liu summarized the new technical normality of the future as “AIoT as a Service”. With the medium of data, AioT can serve all walks of life as a fundamental service; future innovation entities will either develop such service or utilize this to serve vertical markets.

New attempt:

Alibaba betting on the futureof AIoT?

艾诚:在阿里的布局中我捕捉到一个关键词叫做AIoT,IoT我们知道是物联网的意思,Internet of Things,但把AI人工智能融合在一起,是否也意味着阿里对未来的判断就是AIoT?
Gloria Ai: In Alibaba’s business blueprint, I noticed a key word “AIoT”. We know IoT stands for Internet of Things, but if we combine it with AI, does that mean Alibaba believes that AIoT will lead the trend in the future?

刘松:我觉得狭义地讲,这两个是最关键的技术。尤其当一个互联网公司已有的业态是一个线上的闭环,拥有几亿消费者的数据,通过云计算分析和预测他们的行为,使用类似App的媒介给他们带来服务,但是今天你到了工厂,到了城市,到了农业,甚至到了海上的钻井平台,你怎么能够知道那些流动中的石油,它到底是怎么流向呢?你怎么能够知道城市里面每一个瞬间多少辆车经过了红绿灯? 你怎么知道工厂里面到底化学反应到了什么程度呢?
Song Liu: I think from a micro perspective, these two are the most critical technologies. Especially when an Internet company’s existing business is formed as an online closed loop, with data of hundreds of millions of consumers, we can analyze and predict their behaviors through cloud computing and serve them through an app-like medium. However, imagine if you visit a factory, a city, a village, or even an offshore drilling rig, how would you know the flow of oil underneath, how many cars pass by traffic lights at a certain moment in a city, or the extent of chemical reactions in a factory?


IoT is a collector neural system that extracts data and uploads it in the physical world. AI combined with data generates a process of productive knowledge. By 2018, the technology-oriented professionals in the industry had begun to combine AI and IoT into AIoT, because these two are like a generation of twins to solve physical problems.

Gloria Ai: What kind of businessplan will Alibaba make for the future of AIoT?

Song Liu: Since 2014, we haverecruited hundreds of scientists from overseas specialized in AI, or IoT andits related circuit development. The number of scientists working for us is thehighest domestically. If you search DAMO Academy online, you can see renownedprofessors on the list.

The most recent businessplan is that we released the AI chips and IoT chips at the Computing Conference.The chips will be used in future cities, home appliances, intelligent connectedvehicles and so on. In the past two to three years, we have established R&Dsystems and teams for AI and IoT respectively. AI can’t just be applied inlabs. You need to utilize the new technologies developed by scientists inagriculture, industries and cities. This is the biggest advantage Chinapossesses, where data scientists and AI scientists back from America have allwitnessed the huge real-world demand in China. From the perspective of thetechnology, the more room it has, the more exciting it gets.


Althougheveryone has doubts over whether Alibaba will still be the most successfulInternet technology company in the next decade, the lessons of “success andfailure” that Alibaba has shared with us are invaluable. iAsk, just for you.