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The American Century Yields to the Global Century

The 20th Century was undoubtedly, at least in business, the American Century. Which country will dominate the 21st?

Nitin Nohria, the new dean of Harvard Business School, believes the answer is simple: none.

"No one country or region will enjoy a clear or undisputed advantage; instead, there will be multiple players who will compete on a world stage and in the process raise the level of prosperity all across the globe," he told an audience last week in India, where he was born.

Nohria believes America will still be a powerhouse, but other countries will up their economic game. The BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- will likely become stronger. And new competitors will emerge from what are called the Next 11, a group including Nigeria, the Gulf countries, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

The key to America's dominance in the 20th-century was based on three ingredients, all of which will be needed by any country seeking sustained global competitiveness in the 21st-century:

  • Economic dynamism. Last decade new companies and even new industries supplanted each other constantly. "In any given decade," Nohria related, "roughly a quarter of the firms that were on the list of the Fortune 100--a symbol of the largest, strongest companies in America--were no longer on that list by the end of the decade."
  • Powerful business leadership. Although government policy played a role, the American economy was primarily shaped by such powerful business titans as Andrew Carnegie, CW Post, Henry Kaiser, Sam Walton and Steve Jobs. "Nurturing and cultivating a national culture that enables the emergence and development of a thriving ecology of leadership is, therefore, essential."
  • Multiple ways to compete. American companies continually found different ways to create value for consumers. Nohria pointed to the automobile industry, which started with a one-size-fits-all Model T and continually evolved, with GM providing different models for different market segments and Chrysler focusing on innovation.
You can read the full text of Nohria's comments here. Do you agree that the next 100 years will be a global century as opposed to an American century? If so, what countries will be the winners, and which the losers?

(Global image by A.gonzales, CC 2.0)

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