This week I visited Mexico to reach out on Darden’s behalf to applicants and the business community in Mexico. Darden aims to disseminate best business practices to managers—we want to have impact in the growth and success of the global business community. This means that we take the opportunity on trips such as this to offer ideas, research, and engagement to managers.

Accordingly, I gave several interviews to print and broadcast journalists. Their questions are illuminating. They wanted to know about “the wall” the U.S. plans to build along the border—for Mexicans this is a bitter development in the history between the two countries. They are deeply concerned about the rise of Asia—especially China—and its implications for economic growth in Mexico. And as a major trading partner of the U.S., Mexicans are anxiously awaiting economic news of our downturn.

A consistent question considered the fact that in a competitive world, all size companies have to compete against companies in other latitudes. They asked what Mexican firms must do to sustain themselves in this fiercely competitive environment? What does a company have to do to be competitive? Here is the gist of my reply to the journalists on these questions.

First, a company must suspend its preconceptions about what constitutes “best practice.” the pace of change in business is accelerating, due to technological change, globalization, political changes, and so on. As a result, you must be receptive to new ideas, from wherever they may come. This is a mind-set of learning.

Second, you must ask, “who is your competitor?” Globalization has changed the rules of competition radically. Your competitor is probably not the firm down the street or in the next state. Very likely you have competitors on the other side of the globe, no matter how large or small your firm is. This means that you must think very broadly about the field of competition and where the next surprise might come from. Today, all North Americans look to Asia as a disruptive source of new competition. Next year it could be Brazil, Russia, or the European Union. Take little for granted in terms of the geographic basis of competition. The practical implication of this is that “best practice” will tend not to have a foundation in a single country or culture, such as the U.S., but rather it will grow to be truly global. At Darden, we teach global, rather than U.S., best practice.

Finally, never forget who you are, or what you value. In a world of rapidly-changing competition, integrity and ethical business practice will matter more than ever. We have seen some very good research in recent years that shows stable economic growth and rising stock market prices are associated with declining corruption, growing respect for the sanctity of contracts, and freedom of speech. A number of emerging countries are mired in the worst ethical conditions. The business community around the world should speak out in support for the kinds of values that support sustainable economic growth.

Posted by Robert Bruner at 10/25/2006 08:01:13 PM