Reverse Innovation is all the rage these days, with a new book by the same name from Vijay Govindarajan and long-time collaborator Chris Trimble, numerous articles in academic journals and the popular business press, and a truly impressive list of glowing endorsements from many of the world’s best-known senior business executives and academics, including Jeff Immelt, Ratan Tata, and Warren Bennis.  But is reverse innovation truly “a framework for the next phase of globalization” or instead just another management fad that will be forgotten a few years from now?

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 More than four years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which unintentionally triggered the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, the global economy remains extremely fragile.  Structural reforms to prevent another crisis have not been implemented and a double-dip global recession is still possible, as the EU struggles to resolve its sovereign debt crisis, the U.S. tries to avoid a suicidal drive off its own “fiscal cliff”, and China’s growth rate has slowed significantly in recent months.  And even if another global recession is narrowly avoided this time, a prolonged period of stagnation is likely, unless coordinated corrective action is taken soon.

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How different the world looked in the early 1990s.  The Berlin Wall had come down and Reagan’s evil empire, the Soviet Union, was disintegrating before our very eyes, while, half a world away, it seemed only a matter of time before even communist China would succumb to the seemingly universal values of human rights, liberal democracies, and capitalist free-market economics.  No wonder President H.W. Bush triumphantly introduced “a new world order” in his speech to a joint session of Congress on September 11th 1990.  But fast-forward twenty years to today, and it’s astonishing to see how little of his vision has come true.  While a new world order has certainly emerged, its character is vastly different than what was envisioned at the end of the twentieth century. 

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