Monday, July 13, 2009

The Interconnected World is economically more (not less) stable

Books after books, articles after articles have proclaimed that we have entered the age of turbulence. And the markets are flooded with books that give you the solution.

Sample this from Chaotics by Philip Kotler and John A. Caslione):

[T]he U.S. financial meltdown struck in 2008, with the seeds laid much earlier ... The fact is that we are entering a new age of turbulence, and moreover, heightened turbulence. ... The world is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. Globalization and technology are the two main forces that helped create a new level of interlocking fragility in the world economy.

The italics in the above extract are from the authors.

Let us examine this concept of "interlocking fragility".

Suppose A supplies, exclusively, its raw material to B. If the market to which B supplies collapses, then B is out of business and so is A.

Now suppose, B supplies its different products to multiple markets, and one market collapses. B is hit and so is A, but they do not collapse.

Further, assume that A supplies to B and C. And both B and C supply multiple markets. The impact on A reduces even further.

The above illustration shows how interconnected world reduces turbulence from spreading. An analogy would be the very stable Geodesic Dome.

So where is this "interlocking fragility" coming from?

Here's my conclusion:

The economists and management gurus do not see (or do not understand) that this is a transitory phase. The interlocking is not yet complete. The rich countries are more interlocked and turbulence spreads among them very rapidly. However, as the other regional economies strengthen and as the world get more interconnected, collapse of one economy will merely cause a ripple. Interconnected world is risky for a market leader or a given market itself. Because of technology diffusion and market accessibility, tomorrow, an upstart can turn the tables on a behemoth, such as Microsoft or Intel. The gurus then incorrectly extrapolate this to the world economy itself.

As to why others are proclaiming the arrival of the age of turbulence, I can think of only two reasons:

a) Most if the gurus cannot see beyond America and Europe and possibly Japan. A myopic world view is interpreted to be "interlocking fragility".

and / or

b) This represents an opportunity to cash on paranoia and sell books. Don't believe me? Go to a book shop and see the number of books that offer solutions to the present economic crisis.

By the way, Peter Drucker wrote his book, Managing in Turbulent Times in 1980. Yes 1980. So this is not something new.

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