Linking Corporations to Emerging Markets

Background—Our Origins

In the 1990s Medard Gabel, as Executive Director of the World Game Institute, developed and delivered a series of global simulations for Motorola Corporation for their executive training programs. One version of these simulations placed Motorola executives in charge of the global economy.

Players were in teams that ran different regions of the world—China, India, Europe, Japan, Russia, North America, Latin America, Africa, etc. The simulation was loaded with real world facts and statistics about resources, capacities, and problems. The goal was to solve the problems each region confronted in the real world.

Players learned quickly that they needed to cooperate in the complexly interlinked global economy. They learned how to make limited resources go a long way, how to negotiate, resolve conflicts, set goals and priorities. They also learned a large amount about global and regional economics. The fact that they were having a bit of fun running the world instead of just one of the world’s largest multinational corporations didn't hurt.

In debriefings it was also pointed out that Motorola itself was not unlike the world: It had limited resources, competing needs, and complex interactions of different teams. In the original three “rounds” of the simulation, teams would seek to meet their own needs, then to solve the health, education, environmental, and economic problems of their region. Eventually, we added a fourth round in which players switched roles. Now, instead of running China or Europe, they ran Motorola in China or Europe; instead of being charged with the responsibility to solve the region’s problems, they were instructed—based on what they had learned in the previous rounds about the socio-economic and cultural realities of the region—to come up with answers to the following:

One of the constructive limitations placed on the “What Motorola should be doing” in the various regions was that charity was not allowed. Whatever products or services were suggested had to be profitable. The corporation had to remain viable.

The results were electrifying. The simulation gave players permission and stimulation to think outside the box. Motorola products and capacities for innovation and product development were applied to meeting basic human needs and problems the players were grappling with in the previous rounds. Innovative products, as well as marketing and customer financing techniques leaped out.

This experience further opened my eyes to the powerful role multinational enterprise could play in addressing the basic human needs and problems facing the developing world. Corporations possess a knowledge base, skill set, resources, entrepreneurial mind set, and ability to act quickly that, that if harnessed to meet the needs of the entire world rather than just those of us rich enough to afford them under current economic conditions, could have a profound impact.

It also became increasingly clear that the nation state was going to have an impossible time meeting the needs of its people by itself. The demise of the Soviet Union and the huge amount of privatization of former government functions suggested that even the nation state was beginning to realize it was in over its head and needed some help.

My experience with Motorola was then coupled with the mammoth research project that went into writing Global Inc.: An Atlas of the Multinational Corporation. Here I further realized the size, scale, scope, and resources of the multinational—and that there was a vast market that was not being reached by corporate enterprise.

The idea of the global economic pyramid and the portion being reached—and not being reached—by multinational enterprise became clear. The market for all the corporations we were studying and mapping for the Global Inc. atlas could be expanded to include four billion more people. Equally important was the more than $2 trillion being spent by this segment of the world’s population.

Utilizing the strengths of modern multinational corporate enterprise as a means of meeting the needs of the world’s poor became more than a fantasy: It was now economically feasible.

BigPicture Consulting was born to bring together our expertise with the feasibility of this dream in order to help corporations do well while doing good.