Dear AIB Members,
As we hope to now emerge from lockdowns and hold an in-person meeting in Miami after two long years, and as my term as President is coming to an end, I thought it would be an opportunity to take stock of what the AIB has done and where our organization’s future potential lies.
Over many years the AIB Board has been making a transition from being a strategy-formulation or supervisory group to the Secretariat (housed at Michigan State University) to more of a hands-on operation requiring almost daily interchanges between the board, Secretariat and the two dimensions of the AIB, namely (i) Geographic – 13 regional and country chapters, and (ii) Thematic or functional – 5 Shared Interest Groups (SIGs).
The lockdowns over the past two years have accelerated the worldwide use of virtual meetings which, in my opinion are not as effective as face-to-face gatherings, especially when the common task requires team coordination greased by cementing personal relationships. At the same time, Zoom, Teams, Skype and similar platforms have led to greater participation and ‘democratization’ of organizations such as ours. We have all observed the explosion of webinars, training workshops and fora, organized and led by members who, in prior years, would not have been seen or heard from. To a large extent, this is a salutary development. The buffet or smorgasbord of knowledge offerings has greatly increased.
As part of this expansion process the board has been excited to announce activity in new SIGs, such as the Emerging Markets SIG and the Sustainability SIG which have launched fresh academic offerings, training sessions and workshops to a global audience. Not only have these been free to members, but the board is grateful to the Sheth Foundation and the Center for Emerging Markets at Northeastern University for grants that subsidize new AIB memberships for academics in emerging nations.
Asia, Latin America and Africa are regions where the growth of International Business (IB) teaching and research should be faster than in the traditional areas such as North America or Europe. Literally thousands of new business schools have sprouted there. Many are eager to teach IB courses. Alas, most do not have a clear idea of how to teach IB. This is a role that we hope our Teaching & Education (T&E) SIG can undertake, in developing sample curricula (adapted for each region), teaching materials, as well as workshops for faculty who would like to launch IB courses – or incorporate ‘international’ elements into existing Marketing, Finance, MIS and other functional specializations.
The future of the AIB lies in strengthening a base of teaching IB in business schools in emerging regions. After all, without IB curricular content, there can be no hiring of IB-competent faculty. Without IB-competent faculty, critically-needed research of a quality we see in our crown jewel – Journal of International Business Studies (JIBS) – would not be published. Speaking of research, our other SIG on Research Methods continues its signal task of training scholars in research techniques specifically appropriate for cross-border issues and data.
The board is very grateful to all the many volunteers who support and fuel our academy, such as some Fellows of the AIB who, over the past 18 months, have led research and teaching workshops in South Asia, Africa and the Asia-Pacific chapters. The AIB is fortunate in having highly-competent editors of our three journals. After years of distinguished service, Alain Verbeke will be handing over his Editor-in-chief role at JIBS to Rosalie Tung. AIB Insights has a new and experienced editor in Bill Newburry, and a similar transition from Sarianna Lundan, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of International Business Policy (JIBP) to another capable leader is to occur next year.
JIBP addresses the issue of the impact of our scholarship on the ‘real world.’ Are we merely scribblers in anonymity, or sinecure holders within an inward looking, self-referential academic circle? Perhaps many of our publications do not have an immediate impact, although they will leaven thought in the long run. But International Business, of all fields of inquiry, stands at the crossroads of corporate practice in multinational firms and government policies impacting issues such as economic development, sustainability, and many facets of globalization ranging from cultural change to outsourcing, migration of talent, knowledge spillovers (intended or unintended), and the current heightened awareness of risks — manifested in a strategic reassessment within companies, of the tradeoffs between efficiency and resilience in supply chains, and the geographical footprint of each multinational enterprise. My, what a wonderful playground for us to explore in (and make a difference)!
Why do we have a domain of international business studies? The AIB should exist as the most logical network hub, a confluence of scholars that synergistically integrates ideas from other fields, ranging from Marketing or Finance to Economics and Political Science, to generate new knowledge. After all, the practice of management at a middle or senior level is necessarily multidisciplinary, with a 360 degrees purview and global in scope. Perhaps I am stretching it too far, but maybe there is no purely domestic business left. In teaching my students the basics of foreign exchange risk management, I begin with the example of Di Fara, a famous but slightly seedy pizza restaurant and takeaway in Brooklyn, New York. A domestic business, if you call it that. But fundamentally exposed to currency risk — because while its revenues stem from patrons paying in US dollars, many of Di Fara’s costs are in Euros with imported San Marzano tomatoes and Grana Padano cheese which is why customers line up in the street for the delicious taste of its pizza. International risks even stalk small restaurants in Brooklyn.
We are all international now. Over the past 70 years we have been building a global civilization based on commonly understood rules and institutions. Since the year 1990 tenfold increases have been seen in the international flows of capital, intellectual property licensing, goods and services, and an unprecedentedly dramatic reduction in world poverty. Yes, all that could crumble away, given the baser instincts that humans are capable of. But I think not. We have come too far in evolving a collective global consciousness, based on the cross-border exchanges of ideas, connectivity, standards and values, to easily slip back to the crudeness of the past human condition.
Farok J. Contractor