Monthly Archives: July 2001

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How we globalise

Tom Friedman gets it. His taxonomy of so-called anti-globalisation protestors divides into the “whether we globalise” groups and the “how to globalise” ones. It’s a useful distinction.

“If you think globalisation is all good or all bad, you don’t get it,” Tom writes. I’m glad he has taken this view. His book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, struck me as being an overly rosy-coloured view of globalisation.

In contrast, on the op-ed page of The New York Times, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri waffle about the meaning of the protests. “It is pro-globalization, or rather an alternative globalization movement — one that seeks to eliminate inequalities between rich and poor and between the powerful and the powerless, and to expand the possibilities of self-determination.”

Inequality is the issue

Globalisation is not in itself a folly: it has enriched the world scientifically and culturally and benefited many people economically as well.” Amartya Sen has been a consistent, resounding voice for the world’s poor. His analysis that the problem today is inequality, not globalisation, should be read by everyone on the streets in Genoa.

His conclusion that far-reaching institutional reforms are necessary is also right. But unlike most of the protestors, he recognises changes that have already been implemented in many of the key global institutions.

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Repose and reflection

I’ve just read Dan Gillmor’s column on the need for reflection. “You have to wonder how many leaders in the valley or throughout the nation truly reflect on much of anything.”

This has been a constant theme for me (to the extent of running a couple of Davos sessions on it). I’m convinced that wisdom emerges partially from moments of repose and reflection.

In thinking about one of John Brockman’s annual posers, it occured to me a question that had disappeared was, “Can I sleep on it?” For a CEO in particular, suggesting that time is needed for thought and reflection is anathema in a culture that prizes speed and responsiveness. There’s a danger in this, both for the quality of decisions and for the continued health of the executives themselves.

The Webvan way

Brent Simmons, who is usually on target, reckons Webvan failed because Americans are cheapskates.

That may be part of it, but a larger problem was building nine $35 million distribution centres 18 times the size of a supermarket. The margins for groceries — even if you don’t charge everyday low prices — just can’t support that kind of capital outlay up front. The Financial Times makes the good point that supermarkets had not been challenged previously by the kinds of alternatives that thrive in other areas, like catalogue shopping.

Tim Jackson, as so often, strikes the nail on the head.

F-ed Company, incidentally, has 21 pages and counting of haiku on the demise of Webvan.