By Nathan T. Washburn and B. Tom Hunsaker
Too many companies in mature markets assume the only reason to enter an emerging country is to pursue new customers. They fail to perceive the rich potential for innovation in those countries. Yet as the balance of economic power shifts from West to East, new ideas and business models increasingly flow from emerging markets — rather than the other way around. Even companies that recognize the opportunities often lack the necessary processes to absorb outside innovation.
However, our research shows that multinationals can position themselves to take advantage of the innovative energy that permeates emerging markets if they commit to the deployment of a new kind of manager that we call a “global bridger.”
Such people are relatively rare. Global bridgers are expatriates who seek out and identify potentially company-changing ideas innovations during their assignments in emerging markets. Many expatriates we interviewed became bridgers on their own, sometimes in spite of the company rather than with its support.
Our research, published in the September 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review, explores how companies based in mature markets can break the mold and bring home fresh ideas from the hotbeds of innovation where their expatriates live and work. Read the full article in Harvard Business Review or watch the video below.
Nathan T. Washburn, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of management at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona. He teaches global strategy and speaks Chinese and intermediate Portuguese in addition to his native English. B. Tom Hunsaker teaches in the MBA program at Thunderbird.
|Rethinking Expat Assignments: Nathan Washburn, a professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona, says corporate expatriates need to rethink their roles in emerging markets. View the video on YouTube or on China’s www.tudou.com (2:44).|