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Dear colleagues,

We all know that economies are global, the world is flat (or lumpy), and that you can't just assume all markets are the same. Thus, all competitive analyses must be global to be effective.

A question to my fellow analysts: how often can people really pull off global analysis without leaving in large national biases?

I love the idea of thinking globally. I love to travel. We have at least four languages at use here in our offices. (Note to non-Americans: Yes, I realize this is not that special. It's standard operating procedure in Switzerland, Belgium, Singapore, and elsewhere) We like to believe we're global thinkers.

And still, I get this sneaking feeling that no matter where you are, you probably can't think clearly about the Indonesian market. You'll miss vital information about entering the Chilean market. I have this suspicion that even if you collect data and analysis from five partners around the world, it's probably going to look most like the team that puts it together - German, British, American, etc.

So my questions:

Can you really produce analysis that is "global?"

If so, what do you think are the best practices?

What defines a "global thinker" in your view?

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Hi Eric: You ask some pertinent questions. I have reviewed the research on this and, although it has some fairly clear guidance - particularly when referring to doing international market research, most companies are not properly organized to maximize their CI capabilities and outcomes in international or global market-space. Let me address each of these one at a time, briefly as I'm n between meetings and short on time for the moment:

1) Can you really produce analysis that is "global?" The answer is a definite maybe, but probably leans toward the negative. Global by definition, requires an understanding of the interactions, players, rules of the game *etc.) across over 200 separate nation-state marketplaces, complicated by blurring boundaries and dynamics, many of which we barely understand or can gain agreement on definitions about.

2) There are (supposed) "best practices" published in a variety of books or papers, and several of our CI consultants, like Ruth Stanat, Hans Hedin, Rainer Michaeli (among many others) have many years of beneficial practical experience in these areas, some of which they've been able to share in the form of books, papers, or presentations about their knowledge and experiences. There are global societies that tackle ssues in this area like ESOMAR, which includes professionals that operate in the global or international (these are different, fwiw) CI or market research circles.

3) "Global thinknig" is a concept I have given a lot of thought to, and tried to have a couple of papers address in a book I wrote with David Blenkhorn on "Global Business and CI" (Praeger, 2005). I'd actually like my students to develop this characteristic. I suspect the term has a number of elements, although I doubt there is yet a consensus on what these are or a universal standard for measuring it. Here are some of my thoughts that would bring it about:
a. Rich (i.e., deep) experience living in and among multiple cultures
b. Strong willingness to treat other cultures and practices with respect, often seen as a respectful social interactive nature (narrow mindedness doesn't cut it here)
c. Multi-lingual capability (or easy access to competent translations services)
d. Networks with many other individuals across numerous cultures/nation-states
e) Self-recognition of cognitive biases (blindspots, assumptions, limitations, cognitive distortions, etc.)
f) Demonstrated knowledge and utilisation of multiple conceptual/theoretical models of analysis, especially those developed in the "international business" discipline or field
g) (there are others - like historical knowledge, and the resource of time, that may be added)

Are there others that people will add? I'd be interested in having my horizons expanded on this topic. Thanks for getting it started. I hope I can get it rollin faster. Cheers, Dr. Craig S. Fleisher
While I certainly can't claim Craig's level of expertise on this, ignorance has never prevented me from expressing my opinion.

Two things occur to me about global analysis. 1) No, it can't be done to the same level that a person living in the country being analyzed can achieve. At the same time, if we apply some rigor and structured thinking to the task, whatever we produce is likely to be an improvement on what most organizations are currently getting.

2) Global analysis strikes me as a collaborative process that brings in a number of different viewpoints from around the globe. While all analysis can benefit from this type of input, I think it's especially beneficial to global (or more accurately, multi-country) analysis.

It depends on the circumstances.

If you are looking at how a company like Procter & Gambol, Unilever or any of the truly international companies out there operate, you need to look globally. Looking at the UK without realising that some UK targets and practices will be influenced by the US operation is wrong. So you need a global analysis - and even if your focus is P&G in the US (or some other single market), it can help to understand what's happening in other markets.

In contrast, if you are looking at a UK based company that is predominantly based in the UK, you need to take a local perspective - and understand how things are done in the UK. As a simplistic example, collection and analysis of financial figures for a UK private company will be different to that of a US company, and the accounting principles used will vary from those used in France or Germany. You can't look at such things globally and attempting to do so will only result in inaccurate / misleading results as you try and knock square pegs into round holes.

We are constantly filtering out data and information to create the categories for analysis and the narratives for synthesis that lead to the actionable intelligence we provide to improve decision-making.

As you know, I like to say that we provide intelligence for decision-making (in a Bayesian Decision Analysis kind've way) and that intelligence is always wrong... the question is how wrong are we, and how close to "not-wrong" can we get -- i.e., how much improved decision-making power can we provide by informing and adding knowledge to the decision-making process?

In that context, you can think about our analyses and syntheses like a statical regression model with a bunch've variables that we've decided to throw into the model to help explain what we're modeling. The model is naturally based on our biases.

If we are modeling a global issue that requires global data and global variables, but our biases are insufficient global and inherently parochial, than our model will be underspecified and we will lack enough variables and data regarding the global nature of the issue to give the model sufficient decision-enhancing power.

Conversely, if the issue we are modeling is not that global, but we are biased towards global and multi-lateral analyses and syntheses, then our model may well be overspecified and we will have too many variables and too much data regarding the global nature of the issue and once again our model will lack sufficient decision-enhancing power.

Were you from the Beer industry before you started studying it? Could you truly Grok the inherent data and issues and "language" that a true Beer Industry insider would've? If think you could. In fact, I think you could probably study it better sometimes as an outsider than as an insider. Of course, you might not be as inherently aware of some issues and data sources... but that's what research is for, no?

Just my $.02.

Hope to see ya soon!

Dear Eric,

My answers to your three questions are:

1. Can you really produce analysis that is "global?"


2. If so, what do you think are the best practices?

Think globally from day one. Analyze all industries and companies without regard to national or legal boundaries. Two exceptions to this rule are when a country is a competitor via state-owned businesses and where language or customs or regulations, etc., gives rise to different buyer types or different product varieties (for example, as defined by Michael E. Porter). For example, for car manufacturers: right-hand traffic versus left-hand traffic countries gives rise to cars with steering wheel on the left versus on the right.)

3. What defines a "global thinker" in your view?

A global thinker is mostly someone like you - a linguist and frequent traveler and a great observer of different national cultures, etc.

A global thinker is also someone like me - someone who rarely travels and has performed global research every day for the past seven years building a global industry database using search engines to access Websites and annual reports of global companies, of which 90% are fortunately available in English.

There might be a difference between an exhaustive global analysis and a functional one. Certainly, bias and the need for specialist knowledge make any global analysis challenging. However, perhaps the more relevant issue is complexity, specifically, how best to reduce the complexity of global analysis into something manageable without missing anything crucial.

So how much can you reduce and distill a particular piece of global analysis and still achieve meaningful and actionable results? I don't think there's any one way to do this, but I think understanding exactly why your client needs the analysis and what they intend to do with it is the best indicator of where and in what way you can reduce the inherent complexity of global analysis.

In terms of not missing important pieces of the analysis while reducing complexity, I think the best - and unfortunately intangible - way to assure that you don't miss crucial facets is to have a staff with an international outlook. When you begin removing variables from global analysis, you'll need to have a sense of what you don't know, of what you might be missing. An intuition if you will. And while there's no rational, empirical way to develop this kind of intuition, it can be learned through experience, specifically the experience of living and working outside your native country and with people from all over the world.
Dear Eric,

I call it Mitigating Risks of Globalisation for International Businesses.


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