Yesterday evening I had the pleasure to speak at the second of a series of events organized by IESE’s alumni organization on the link between business strategy and the increasingly complex geo-political situation around the world. The event was held at the Hotel Le Marois which has been the location of the French American Committee since 1927 and is not only a beautiful building but also has been a meeting place for people from the worlds of diplomacy, finance, defense, and culture.
I thought it was a fitting venue especially because the purpose of the book, Strategy & Geopolitics, upon which my speech was based is all about bringing the world of business closer to that concerned with global security and geo-political analysis.
My conviction is that many multinational companies are not as closely attuned to the complexities of the current global situation and are often taken by surprise by major events such as Brexit, the Arab Spring, Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the resulting economic sanctions, or the attempted coup in Turkey and is aftereffects.
These kind of events can wipe billions off a major companies stock market value and cause enormous losses for smaller companies which are heavily exposed to specific markets or investments.
One thing I found heartening in Paris is that it appeared that several French multinationals were doing a better job on these issues than similar companies from other countries. One example is a privately owned investment company at which the Board regularly reviews the political situation in specific countries as part of its investment criteria. Another is a very large international company which still has many of its Country Managers in place and has not yet substituted them and their teams with a global matrix structure.
Another interesting discussion with the audience in Paris was about Africa in general and particularly the Francophone countries on the continent. Africa has, of course, significant geo-political challenges but also has enormous potential!
To a largely French audience, the role of France in Africa was thought to be generally positive and one participant felt that the process of decolonization was handled better by France than some other European powers including the United Kingdom.
I am told that France continues to be involved in many of the francophone countries at the economic, political and strategic level. An example of this was the 2013 French intervention in Mali which was done at the request of the Malian government and in accordance with a resolution in the United Nation’s Security Council. (A detailed study of Operation Serval was undertaken by Rand Corporation for the U.S. Army and can be found here)
What I am enjoying most about these sessions is the different perspectives that one sees in different cities. The group in Paris has a different viewpoint than the group in Amsterdam in November. I will be doing a similar session in Moscow on April 5th and then in Munich on the 6th and they should be very interesting indeed!
(March 6th was going to be in Warsaw but that has been postponed……)