An Ideas-Based Online Magazine of the Global Network for Advanced Management

Future of Globalization: Open Minds and Borders

To coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Global Network for Advanced Management in April 2017, Global Network Perspectives asked faculty across the 29 schools in the network: "What do you think the future of globalization looks like? How will this affect the economy in your country or region? How is your school preparing students for this world?" Read all of the responses. Also, in a session at the anniversary symposium, a panel of experts—including former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry—led a discussion of the future of globalization and its implications for business and management education. Watch the video.

Some are accusing “globalization” of destroying jobs, national character, and traditional values. Narrowly, this criticism is fueling protectionist trade policies. More broadly, it is providing cover for demonization of “the other,” people from elsewhere who are not only “stealing our jobs” but also stealing “our country or culture.” As an American living in the United Kingdom, as dean of a school where 95% of our MBAs are from outside the U.K., and as an eyewitness to both Brexit and the U.S. presidential election, these characterizations are painful. It’s shocking to have the U.K. Prime Minister taunt that “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere,” and for the U.S. President to say and tweet far worse.

Globalization reflects the free flows of goods, people, and ideas. Most of the political rhetoric deals with the first two. Last month’s Boao Forum for Asia, the pre-eminent gathering of government and business leaders in Asia Pacific, espoused the theme of “Globalization and Free Trade” and China’s One Belt–One Road Initiative will push in this direction. The hard Brexit, anti-NAFTA conversations in the English-speaking world are pushing us elsewhere, even as the U.K. is trying to open up (or reopen) all sorts of other trade connections. It strikes me that consumers, like economists, will be unwilling to give up the benefits of buying a wider range of products, at lower prices, that global supply chains permit. Businesses cut off from their global supply chains will also protest. Some form of continued global trade seems inevitable.

As academics and educators, we must publicly react to rising nationalistic sentiment, and I think we must focus on the free flow of ideas and people. In my school, everyone is a minority, with no nationality having anything resembling a majority. My students would agree with me that this produces a far better education than had they attended a school with a more homogeneous student body. Being in a program where you are as likely to have a classmate from Africa as from Europe changes your perspective—for the better. While politicians battle over the free flow of trade, we must make sure that students and ideas can move easily across borders. One of the reasons why we were thrilled to join the Global Network earlier this year is because we want to recommit, publicly, to these free flows. While countries have the right to set immigration policies, they should recognize that allowing young people to study abroad benefits both the host and home country. If we believe that trade will always been global, then it’s critical that business education be global as well. 

Some years ago, when I was on the faculty of a leading U.S. business school, one of my expat colleagues claimed that all faculty hires should have global backgrounds, spending a minimum of a year overseas. I cringed, feeling both inadequate and angry with this comment. Years later, I get it. While we can’t mandate how people should plan their family and professional lives, you learn a lot by being the “other.” It’s humbling not knowing whether you are saying the right thing, not sharing the same cultural references, and seeing your own country through other’s eyes. In a simpler way, breaking out of the business school orbit by being fully engaged with the broader university has a similar humbling effect. A bit of humility has a remarkable impact on your ability to learn. How are we preparing students for this complicated world? By making them humble and by so doing, making everyone feel like they are part of a much broader and richer world.