How Companies Can Befriend A Trend

Trend research is a booming business. Many agencies and self-appointed gurus announce the latest trends from their perspective, generating publicity and awareness. This can be particularly confusing for multinational corporations because, apart from local and regional trends, they have to identify international and cross-regional trends, and incorporate them into their strategic planning and decisions. But trends and trend research are an integral part of business int he global marketplace. If companies miss out on market developments that fundamentally change customer interactions, they are doomed to fail…

How Companies Can Befriend A Trend

Published in Marketing Management

There Is Sunshine Above the Clouds (Part 4)

Part 4: New Challenges for Universities.

In the past thirty years, competition, information technology, and the porousness of barriers to trade and investment around the globe, have significantly changed the transaction costs and spheres of influence by and on individual companies. However, not only the conditions for individual companies have been changed. Universities have also been exposed to profound changes in their constituency, participation in society, and resource requirements.

At first glance, today’s universities differ little from their predecessors. There are still students and professors, reading books and manuscripts, in classrooms designed for frontal communications. Yet, in recent decades, dramatic changes have occurred behind impressive facades. The extent of change is largely underestimated and its future implications are not even remotely known. Today, globalization and the information revolution precipitate profound changes in the structure, capabilities and functions of universities. Just consider the latest innovations in teaching by MIT and other universities which, through massive open online courses (MOOCs) deliver their content around the world, and often do so for free.

Electronic media have shaped education and innovation into pillars of democratization. The third leg of the tripod providing stability consists of the rise of new informal relationships which convert exclusivity into participatory inclusiveness. Wikipedia statements shaped by many eager participants replace the decisions by the greying editors of the Oxford dictionary not necessarily for the worst. Informal learning replaces the uniqueness of institutional learning. Networks substitute for formal classrooms, and external knowledge rivals the importance of internal knowledge. As the Institute for International Education stated in its 2010 Open Doors report, the growing mobility of students and faculty also contributes to increased relationships, knowledge exchange and informality.

Throughout all these shifts, universities continue to rank among the oldest and most successful institutions in human history. Many countries have recognized the key relevance of the education sector for sustainable growth and broad based prosperity, though the transformational role of academic influence is often feared but not yet fully understood. Countries devote financial and political attention to the establishment and development of universities. Traditional knowledge exporters, such as the United States, Germany, France and England, strengthen their efforts to maintain a high share in the dynamically growing international academic market. These traditional exporters, according to a 2007 World Bank report by Sajitha Bashir, also recognize the economic benefits of bestowing internationally recognized qualifications on future decision-makers about infrastructure, engineering and economic acquisitions.

This post is part of a series by Michael Czinkota of Georgetown University and Andreas Pinkwart of Handelshochschule Leipzig on international business research and the new role of universities. Find Part 3 here.

There Is Sunshine Above the Clouds (Part 3)

Part 3: New Challenges for the Global Economy.

In addition to the ever-increasing sums spent on education and innovation by the established and emerging nations, there are also new sources of funding from very wealthy patrons, who, with their substantial assets and, often with the use of a professional foundation, can decisively address pressing human issues.

The following reasons convert what used to be strictly local issues into cross-border challenges:

(i) Today, many concerns either transcend borders quite quickly (consider the eruption and subsequent disruption by the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull) or can only be addressed by large cross-national efforts which are needed to effectively track large scale problems (think of global warming or pollution control).

(ii) Dominant issues often have in common that they cannot be solved effectively by a single nation or even a single region. Real progress requires sufficient reach and resources which can only be achieved by strategic alliances across national boundaries.

(iii) Changes and challenges are increasingly discontinuous and non-linear. Rather than experiencing a  gradual evolution of issues, a key characteristic of new concerns is their sudden discovery due to system shocks and structural breaks. Therefore, just as in the Nicene creed, we need to be attentive both to things seen and unseen.

(iv) The major global challenges cannot be solved by simple continuation of existing patterns of thinking. Solutions to the challenges of the 21st Century require aggressive cross sectional best research and innovation practices.

These approaches apply to issues of such great variety as the depletion of resources, the threats of pandemics, pollution and climate change, the need for sustainability, and the overcoming of terrorism. Prerequisite are effective innovations that are understood and supported because they are useful and compatible with individual values.

In consequence, universities are not only challenged to keep their approaches to science, technology, legal, and socioeconomics up-to-date. Research and development efforts in universities also need to react to the emergence of new growth areas and great challenges of our time concerning the environment, health, safety and demography.

Furthermore, globalization and the information revolution also result in considerable pressure for change, both for the people in the workplace as well as those in the lecture halls and laboratories.

Networking and flexible organizational forms have taken on a growing importance in the development and communication of best knowledge and practices. The outsourcing of sub-processes to low cost locations offers new activities and previously unimagined division of labor. At the same time, projects such as research on fusion, supercomputing, or on artificial matter require so much know-how and investment that they can only be brought to fruition through the collaboration of multiple universities and nations.

This post is part of a series by Michael Czinkota of Georgetown University and Andreas Pinkwart of Handelshochschule Leipzig on international business research and the new role of universities. Find Part 2 here