"Building Higher Walls Will not Save Us From Global Change"

Ian Goldin encourages embracing change at the Global Alumni Reunion

11/11/2016 Barcelona

Ian Goldin
"We must integrate systemic risk in business decision making,” Ian Goldin during the Global Alumni Reunion 2016 / Photo: Edu Ferrer

"Globalization has not collapsed ... yet," says IESE Prof. and world expert Pankaj Ghemawat. The data on the impact of trade after Brexit corroborate this, but the results of the American elections could change things.

This is one of the opinions expressed today during the IESE Global Alumni Reunion, held in Barcelona. More than 2,000 business leaders gathered to debate the impact of the latest global events on business and the opportunities that science and innovation offer to solve social and economic problems.

Ghemawat was joined on the geopolitics panel by Oxford Professor Ian Goldin, and General Secretary of the Ibero American Conference – Rebeca Grynspan.

“Since 1990, globalized trade and exports have taken off,” says The Oxford Martin School Founder, Ian Goldin. “There are more actors and interactions, and global communities are connecting in many ways.”

“Complex webs have evolved,” he adds, “but not only do they bring more ideas and innovation, they also bring systemic risk.”

"We must integrate systemic risk in business decision making, otherwise globalization can be seen as a threat rather than an opportunity," Goldin notes.

Goldin comments that recent political outcomes in the U.K. and U.S. reflect the fact that "the present system is completely inadequate to manage the challenges of globalization."

In his view, there is discontent in society due to increased inequality, but we must distinguish between "absolute inequality" and "relative inequality," as well as consider that globalization is not necessarily to blame.

"The Human Development Index has improved globally thanks to globalization,” explains Grynspan, “but inequalities and negative impact on the environment have increased."

“Anti-globalization sentiment is the greatest risk which we face today,” she concluded.


Preparing for Change

“If we can’t manage the risks,” warns Goldin, “then globalization will disintegrate, and this would be a tragedy for everyone.” He makes some key recommendations to prepare for change and prevent this:

  • Develop a global community
  • Think long term
  • Cultivate flexibility and resilience in the financial system
  • Promote ethics as the only way to fight against discontent
  • Business leaders with a global vision become involved in politics

"Building higher walls will not save us from global change," says Goldin.

“We’re in a period of renaissance where everything we’ve always known is changing,” says Goldin. “In renaissance moments the stakes are higher. And when the pace of change is higher, people get left behind quicker  society needs to be more prepared for change.”


Educating for Prevention not Cure

One particular area where preparation is particularly relevant is health. “We can prolong life with tech, but it’s important to prevent failure of the brain with education at a young age,” says Dr. Valentín Fuster in his session on Science and Innovation.

In the face of technological advancements leading to better treatment, the director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Mount Sinai Medical Hospital in New York raised concerns about the cost of prolonging life and the quality of the life it lengthens. “The trend today is for promoting health in young people.”


Alumni To Be The Change

Over the course of the Global Alumni Reunion (GAR) there was a total of more than 20 speakers, including Deborah DiSanzo, Managing Director of IBM Watson Health; Marc Puig, President and CEO of Puig, Luis Maroto, Amadeus CEO, and Francis Okomo-Okello, member of the board of Barclays Africa Group, among many others. Alumni entrepreneurs who also participated included Carlota Pi, Holaluz, and Timo Kerzel of Telanto.

Key topics covered were Science and Innovation, Internationalization, Entrepreneurship and Digital Transformation.

But the agents of change were not only those appearing on the stage. As Dean Franz Heukamp said during his opening remarks, “whatever we do in the future or past is done by 45,000 alumni. This is all about the alumni, a chance for us to listen to them and about what we can do so that we can be the change.”