Competing in the MultiPolar World (Part 2 of 2)
The Threat of an Inward Focus
Back in the U.S., I met with leaders from the retail, consumer goods, automotive, and financial services industries. All of these sectors are feeling the pinch from the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the resulting credit crunch. Not surprisingly, they are trying to shore up their domestic business with customer incentives, new product and pricing approaches, and cost management strategies. One of the dangers of the current situation, however, is the potential that the fixation on inward-looking strategies is distracting Corporate America just when it needs to be most focused on global opportunities and threats.
We have already seen sovereign wealth funds taking positions on Wall Street—even buying a large share of New York's Chrysler Building. But what would happen if, for example, a Chinese bank bought a North American bank? We have witnessed the impact of Indian steel and automotive companies bringing their cost structures and assumed business models to bear on developed-country companies. We have similarly seen Latin American mining giants transforming their overseas acquisitions. The need to benchmark the underlying performance and profit drivers of these new champions as a stimulus to transformational change in the old champions is clear.
Tackling Emerging Markets
Similarly, as we fight to sell cars to a shrinking and aging demographic, what about the new markets around the world where car purchasing is exploding? North American companies such as General Motors have had success in breaking into these markets but the concrete is setting fast on brand awareness, distribution channels, and customer loyalties in the emerging world. Ensuring that a sufficient amount of corporate mindshare is targeted at emerging-market opportunities in these challenging times is important.
We all know the stories from the past 50 years of business success and the role that inspirational CEOs and leaders from the U.S. have played. The new leaders of the next generation of successful multinationals will need to be even more globally aware and well-traveled, with deeper experiences working in more diverse environments. This is something my Accenture colleagues are focused on with proactive leadership development and global mobility programs that provide greater opportunities for Accenture employees to enhance their career experience through cross-border and within-country assignments.
The Way Ahead
Of course, corporations based in the developed world aren't the only ones coping with multipolar interdependences. In future columns, I will discuss the repercussions of the boom in emerging-market mergers and acquisitions and the accompanying squeeze on managerial talent as well as how the ripples of the economic downturn in the U.S. are affecting these new markets.
In our new multipolar world, there are many North American corporations that are leading the way in the development of new global marketplaces. They have developed sophisticated and flexible operating models to balance being "super global" with being "super local." There are globally experienced teams with a clear strategic perspective on where to place bets and take long-term risks abroad while at the same time nurturing home markets.