Book Review: World Out of Balance: Navigating Global Risks to Seize Competitive Advantage
By: Paul A. Laudicina. New York: McGraw-Hill , 2005 . 236+xvii pages. Review by: Preston G. Smith
Paul Laudicina claims that the world is undergoing unprecedented changes that will have a major impact on how we conduct business. Although his aim is to prepare business in general for the risks and opportunities involved, this book also has much to offer the product developer. He describes
market shifts that will open new markets and will close established ones
consumer changes that will alter the way individuals evaluate, use, and dispose of products
demographic, environmental, and regulatory changes that will necessitate new ways of developing products.
Laudicina organizes the book nicely into five “drivers”: globalization, demographics, consumers, natural resources and the environment, and regulation and activism. Each of these five is the topic of a chapter, and each chapter subdivides into subtopics. For instance, Laudicina divides natural resources and the environment into water scarcity, energy shortages and maldistribution, and climate change (global warming). He maintains that growing water shortages in certain parts of the world are creating both problems and opportunities. “Already, there are more water refugees—people who have left their homes in Mexico, Somalia, northern China, Nigeria, and Iran to find water—than there are war refugees in the world” (p. 104). Viewing this as an opportunity, General Electric (GE) has built a US$1.4 billion business in water-treatment chemistry and membranes used in water treatment (p. 116). In discussing the energy shortage, the author points out that most of the predominant form of energy in use today, oil, lies under politically unstable areas. Saudi Arabia, for example, is a major powder keg. Another energy-related problem is that China is using escalating amounts of coal, which is the dirtiest of fuels. Again, GE has taken advantage of this by creating a rapidly growing US$1.2 billion wind-energy business (pp. 123–124).
The author presents his case using a huge assortment of facts, including 425 endnotes. His careful organization of this volume of information helps the reader stay focused. However, even with such a large number of endnotes, many of his facts (e.g., the quotation on water refugees just mentioned) are not referenced. The index lists the names of people or organizations mentioned, but indexing of concepts is limited. More fundamentally, this book is limited by being presented from a businessperson's perspective: Laudicina is a vice president with A.T. Kearney. For example, the author does not mention the similarly titled book, World on Fire (Chua, 2003), which from more of a social science perspective presents some sobering consequences of globalization.
In summary, this book presents the thoughtful product developer with a broader, longer-term picture of her environment than usual, which could suggest new products or decaying markets, and it might suggest changes needed in one's product development process to cope with or exploit such trends.
Released: October 1, 2013, 1:09 pm
| Updated: October 30, 2013, 2:25 pm