Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 2: taking a globally connected perspective, take two

Posted in book recommendations, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on February 5, 2017

This is my second installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of the core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series, that I wrote in the immediate context of my having worked and studied at a large US-based business school. See Section II of Reexamining the Fundamentals: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals for my earlier related series, and Part 1 of this new endeavor for more detailed orienting notes as to why I am offering this new series now. And see my earlier counterpart posting to this one, from that 2010 series: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals from a Globally Connected Perspective.

The earlier posting that I cite here as a 2010 counterpart to this one, was my first posting to that earlier series, and I recommend you’re reading it for both its differences from the here-and-now of 2017, and for its similarities. Many of the specific details noted there are now quaintly historical, and only served as time and place markers for when I actually wrote them. The unemployment rate in the United States was at and even a bit above 10% when I wrote of that in 2010, thanks in large part to the damage that George W. Bush and his anti-regulatory and anti-oversight Republican Congress played in enabling the Great Recession. Yes, I state that in starkly partisan terms. But the banks and other financial institutions that gave us the household mortgage bubble and its collapse and so much more, were allowed to take the uncontrolled and unconsidered risks that they did that made all of that happen, because the failures of the Great Depression in the United States and lessons learned from them were forgotten. And the regulatory laws put in place with a specific goal of blocking large scale high risk behavior by financial institutions, were largely undone. So US unemployment and I add the unemployment rates in a number of other countries were all way up.

I also cited an environmentally disastrous BP oil platform spill in that earlier posting too, where that directly impacted on the United States and Mexico, and significantly impacted on peoples and nations that ranged way beyond the Gulf of Mexico too. After two terms of Barack Obama’s presidency, and with more prudent behavior enforced in the financial industries and beyond – even if somewhat grudgingly, US unemployment is way, way down and the US economy is strong again. The US dollar is very strong against other widely traded currencies, as just one measure of that. And the European Union (EU) and its economy is a lot stronger than it was – even if its enforced austerity measures prolonged their recovery for several very difficult years, and throughout Europe.

But Donald Trump was elected president in the United States and the United Kingdom has voted to brexit the EU and we may be heading into another downward phase in the up and down cycles that economies seem destined to follow and forever.

What does this mean, in an increasingly globally interconnected context, and particularly where that connectivity is increasingly all taking place in an immediately here and now real-time context, and without any real pauses or delays? That is in fact a very complex question, and one of my goals for this series as a whole is to at least point towards possible answers to it, by systematically noting key factors that enter into understanding it. And I begin that process here, by offering a few puzzle pieces that I see as essential for addressing that question. And these pieces all relate to how peoples and nations, and economies connect – or not, and effectively or not.

The first of them involves global flattening, and in that I cite a succession of three books by an author who I have cited several times in this blog already:

• Friedman, T.L. (2007 edition) The World Is Flat. Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (The first edition of this initially came out in 2005 but I cite here its revised and updated edition.)
• Friedman, T.L. (2008) Hot, Flat and Crowded: why we need a green revolution – and how it can renew America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (Available through this link as a free full text PDF download.)
• Friedman, T.L. (2016) Thank You for Being Late: an optimist’s guide to thriving in the age of accelerations. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York.

The first of these books offers what might be considered a first take rosy scenario perspective of a still emerging process that I am certain, will come to be seen as having defined at least the first half of the 21st century, and globally when it is more historically considered. The second and third of them add in at least some of the complications that are emerging in all of this.

And the second basic puzzle piece that I would address here is one of fake news, and the challenge of propaganda and spin, and outright fabrication in what should be the news that we read hear, and that we all have to be able to rely on if we are to understand the world around us. And that “we all” includes business and government leaders and policy makers too, who can be just as confused and misled as anyone by all of this.

I cite two recent news stories with this puzzle piece in mind. The first is a news piece about a site that once focused on debunking urban myths, such as the old trope about alligators that had been discarded as pets, living in the New York City sewer system. And it is now a major participant in the effort to identify and debunk fake news stories – so it is now the target for such stories too, offered to try to discredit them.

For Fact-Checking Website Snopes, a Bigger Role Brings More Attacks.

And the second is a very recent news piece that I offer without supporting link to the effect that about a week ago, the leader of a nation that has nuclear weapons: Pakistan, pointedly reminded the leader of another nation with them: Israel, that they have the bomb too – and this apparently happened because the leader of that first country saw a fake news story that made it sound like the leader of the second had insulted and threatened him! That, unfortunately is not fake news. I write of economic friction, and of business systems friction (for the macroeconomic and microeconomic perspectives on communications challenges, respectively), in this blog. Global flattening, and its discontents, and ongoing communications and information sharing challenges – that have in fact accelerated in their reach because of it, are factors that have to be taken into account in any discussion of global connectivity and its effects and consequences.

And to round out my at least initial discussion of this set of issues as offered here, I add one more orienting reference to this posting with Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs. I offered that posting with an immediate goal of addressing political challenges in the United States, leading up to the 2016 election there, and in recognition of the challenges that we collectively face, as so many of us have come to live in epistemic bubbles – where we only see and hear and read of perspectives and opinions that support our own preconceived views and biases, and where “news” and “facts” are custom-selected and shaped to mesh with that. The issues that I briefly touched upon there, are in fact global in nature and not just an affliction of any one nation or region.

I am going to continue this discussion in a few days where I will return to the next installment of my 2010 series, to reconsider its issues: Strategy and Strategic Vision in the Interconnected, Interdependent Marketplace.

Meanwhile, you can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, as a new Section VII in that directory.

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