As we publish this month’s issue of Signal360, votes are still being counted in the US election. But no matter the outcome, we’re taking a wide view of the forces shaping our global business environment. We’ve seen technology make the world a much smaller place, but doing business around the world is growing more complicated. 

To provide a broad perspective on what is happening to global business today, we interviewed Vijay Vaitheeswaran, US business editor at The Economist. The main trend he is seeing is ‘“slobalization,” which takes a step back from a fully integrated global business ecosystem.For example, integrated global supply chains optimized for costs now being redesigned for resiliency. Another area that drives this trend are protectionist policies. Multinational companies that are heavily invested around the world will have to find a path to balance a global business approach with local consumer interests and government policies. 

Much has been written about TikTok’s uncertain future in the US. The TikTok case is part of a broader trend of how governments around the world are shifting their approaches to oversight and regulations. The European GDPR consumer privacy regulations provide another example that is complicating for global business. Such regulatory moves may even require companies to set up different cloud data storage for specific countries or regions. The cost of doing business globally is increasing.

But even as trends show a slowdown of globalization, we are seeing an increasing number of innovation hubs around the world. Although Silicon Valley remains the world’s premier innovation hub, many other places around the world are becoming innovation destinations as well, with increasing access to talent and capital. Some, like Israel and Korea, are already well known. Other innovation hotspots such as Abu Dhabi and Lagos, are new and somewhat surprising. At Signal 2020 we featured the story of Medellin, Colombia, which is one of the best examples of a city that transformed itself into an award-winning global innovation hotspot.

A strength of global companies like P&G is the ability to incubate innovation anywhere in the world, bringing the best talent available. In our Signal Entrepreneur interview, China-based Jingzhuo Mao explains the challenge of explaining the complex Opte product (a handheld inkjet printer for correcting skin spots) in a social media world of short attention spans. (If you know of a P&G entrepreneur we should highlight, drop us a line!)

For business leaders to successfully navigate an increasingly complex world, it is important to understand, adapt to, and bridge across local contexts and consumers. We have two great examples. Kulvinder Birring, CEO of Watsons China, was able to navigate the unexpected challenges of the early COVID crisis by using the dramatic eCommerce acceleration and infrastructure in China. Emily Chang, CEO of McCann Worldgroup in China and a P&G alumnus, shares her personal perspective that it all starts with walking in the shoes of your consumer. 

There is no global market. The world consists of many countries, cultures, and consumers each with its own identity and aspirations. Understanding and connecting within this world is critical for leading a global business. Safe travels!


Stan Joosten & John Battelle,

Editors-In-Chief, Signal360 / Co-founders, Signal P&G