Many international business leaders treat it as a foregone conclusion that the world is flat. Past posts on this blog have stated that globalization is an unavoidable feature of the current world economy which cannot be ignored by businesses. Do the statistics support these conclusions? A recent blog post for The Economist provides numbers that appear to question how prevalent the global economy really is.
The author provides a wide variety of statistics that appear to paint a negative picture of progress toward globalization. Percentages of people studying or living abroad, of companies with foreigners on boards of directors, and of businesses with foreign operations, appear to be smaller than one would expect. When looked at independently, these statistics seem to show us that globalization is not as widespread as many people would like to believe. The author argues that globalization is a product of our imagination and willingness to assume that technology can make national borders irrelevant.
Does globalization have to mean that people and products are moving across borders more frequently, or can it simply be that information and communication capabilities are now quickly accessible from anywhere on the globe? Businesses have the ability to learn from their counterparts in other countries more easily than ever before. They can form bonds with business partners without ever meeting face to face.
Globalization need not always be viewed as a competitive arena where the best businesses win everywhere and push weak local rivals to extinction. It also gives new businesses the ability to access knowledge of best methods, practices, standards, and norms used elsewhere to adapt them in new regions. These benefits are not as easy to quantify, but they are powerful nonetheless.
Not every person, business, or country will quickly embrace global opportunities, but the ability to do so is there more than ever before. There are greater opportunities to make international agreements with customers and suppliers, whether or not business leaders determine that it is the best option at the present time. The proliferation of technology throughout all industries is enabling business leaders to make global connections as easily as domestic ones. In doing so, it is creating a framework that will withstand the test of time.