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October 2, 2000The Global Imperative

In the face of digital hysteria, we have striven with our clientele to accent where the profits lie. They are found in global trade pastures as well as in the new service ecosystem now surrounding every product worth its salt. Digitalis (digital fascination) is a means to an end, not the end in itself.

The Latin Rhythm. The flowering of Hispanic culture, which dominates our entries on The Global Province this week, is evidence of how we are becoming globalized. Given our huge national market and our heartland culture, the world is finding us, rather than us taking the world. We have been slow to market internationally, and very slow off the mark geopolitically. For the last ten years our government has been asleep internationally, but no one has cared. This was further confirmed this week during a visit with an old State Department hand.

Just recently, Ruben Dario, poet of Latin greatness, has been rediscovered, almost by accident, at Harvard's Widener Library (<www.globalprovince.com/bestofclass.htm>). Cuban and Latin music now sweep across the dance clubs of the United States (<www.globalprovince.com/bestofclass.htm>). Spain's fast moving fashion store -- Zara (<www.globalprovince.com/agilecompanies.htm>) -- is running circles around our retailers, while Spain's new economic muscle is also being felt around the Hemisphere in banking and telecommunications. Recognizing the obvious, ABC World News Tonight is just beginning broadcasts in Spanish. In spite of ourselves, we are donning some international clothing.

The Global Imperative. More and more companies are understanding the global imperative. GE, slow to grow overseas, has been buying cheap assets ranging from lighting companies in the old Eastern bloc to an array of financial service assets in Japan. Gradually companies are learning to be international.

The Service Paradox. Service is another story. It is the central paradox of business. Every company with vision has decided that it must offer a panoply of services if it is to enjoy double-digit growth. And yet "service quality," in company after company, industry after industry, is declining. At the consumer or business-to-business level, one experiences pure shock if anyone surprises you with a superior service experience. By and large, companies do not understand the essence of service.  In fact, that is a strategic problem we are being asked to deal with in some major companies: How do we make the transition to the service economy? The ability to do so will profoundly affect the branding issues all companies must now confront.

P.S. We would appreciate it if you would share with us any superior encounters you have with the media -- be it newspapers, cable channels, academic journals, web magazines, or whatever. We wonder who compels your attention or simply provides something you find terribly useful. For us, a revived Atlantic Monthly has been a recent pleasurable surprise.

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