Research & Impact

Drop By Drop - Studying The Next Wave Of Globalization

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Dr. Gary Knight, Helen Simpson Jackson Chair in Global Management

In addition to his many publications, Dr. Knight’s research has manifested as a series of brief international study trips for Willamette’s current and past MBA students. In Spring, 2013, Dr. Knight led a group of students to Brazil. In December, 2013 he’ll take a group to Chile, and in March, 2014, he’ll escort a group to China.

“We launched those trips because the US needs to participate more in the global economy. We need to approach our participation with increasing sophistication,” explains Dr. Knight. “We’re developing these programs with the goal of giving our students greater exposure to global management, and a certain degree of credibility with globally oriented employers.”

Why Focus On Emerging Markets?

Today, there are slightly more emerging markets than ‘developed’ economies, “They represent the future of global commerce,” explains Dr. Knight. “China and India alone constitute more than one-third of the world’s population. For our students to learn how to do business in emerging economies, they must develop a sensitivity to the plight of the impoverished majority in the world, and gain some understanding of associated challenges and difficulties.”

An element of altruism shades the doctor’s pragmatism, “To the extent that such countries participate in the global economy, they’ll raise their citizens’ standards of living. Think about the world economy 200 years ago. 99% of people were poor. Today, 20% of the world is relatively affluent. Maybe we’ll be able to double that in coming decades. I’m sure everyone would like to live in a world where more people are relatively well off. Global commerce and management can make an important contribution.”

Applied Research In The Classroom

Dr. Knight also brings his research to his class on International Entrepreneurship. Here, he invites a few Pacific-Northwest companies intent on launching a product in a foreign market. Over the course of the class, students research and write reports about their client-product’s viability in a specific market. In fact, two student groups work for each client-product, focusing on different markets.

Why divide two groups across each product? The realities of international business: “At the end of the semester, we can show our clients two alternate paths that they might follow. One of them is almost certainly better than the other,” explains Dr. Knight. “As the students research their respective markets, and strategies for targeting those markets, a lot of information emerges and clarifies the client’s original hypothesis.”

You Can’t Export A Haircut

As if one area of research weren’t rich enough, Dr. Knight pursues a second topic: the internationalization of the services sector. Recently, he completed a literature review (due for publication in 2014), “Of the top 39 academic journals in international commerce, less than two percent of the published research explicitly addresses internationalization of services. By and large, this area has been neglected.”

“This arm of research is also quite young,” concedes Dr. Knight. “Our preliminary questions include: ‘How does services internationalization differ from products internationalization?’ ‘What are appropriate strategies that service organizations should emphasize to conduct international business?’ ‘What are the success factors of the most successful international services companies?’ and ‘What are the public-policy implications?’”

Of All The Classrooms In All The World, He Chose This One

Why did Dr. Knight accept the Helen Simpson Jackson Chair at Willamette? As with everything else, his answer accounts for many factors: “Two of my mentors held the chair before me, so there’s a bit of a legacy. Second, I was attracted by Willamette’s goal to participate in the global economy. And, to my mind, there’s simply more entrepreneurship in the Pacific Northwest, so there’s more opportunity for students to interact with practitioners. I am very happy to live in such a dynamic and exciting part of the world.”