Competing in a Flat World: Building Enterprises for a Borderless World

Victor K. Fung, William K. Fung, and Yoram (Jerry) Wind

In the “flat world,” success is less about what the company can do itself and more about what it can connect to. In Competing in a Flat World: Building Enterprises for a Borderless World, Victor and William Fung team with Jerry Wind, author of the best-selling The Power of Impossible Thinking, to reveal how “old-fashioned” infrastructures and huge employee bases can be replaced with fluid, ever-changing networks that can design, manufacture, and deliver almost anything, anywhere. The authors provide specifics from the company that pioneered “flat world” success, Li & Fung, which produces more than $8 billion in garments and other goods for the world’s top brands and retailers — without owning a single factory.

Success in this world is based on a set of principles that are based on Li & Fung’s “network orchestration,” described for the first time in Competing in a Flat World. The authors examine how these principles can be applied in manufacturing, services and other industries, and make the case that networked, global enterprises—from Wikipedia to open-source software to manufacturing supply chains—are fluid and complex. These network orchestration principles are what holds these loosely linked enterprises together, allowing companies to balance firm-centric and network-centric views and build value through specialization. Li & Fung’s experience with companies such as Ecko Unlimited, The Limited and Gymboree are highlighted throughout the book as examples of how to employ this strategy.

Examples from companies such as eBay, Wikipedia, Boeing, and Build-A-Bear Workshop further demonstrate the orchestration model. Co-author Victor K. Fung is the Group Chairman of the Li & Fung group of companies, which includes major subsidiaries in trading, distribution and retailing, including publicly listed Li & Fung Limited, Integrated Distribution Services Group Limited and Convenience Retail Asia. He also is chairman of the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council, the Hong Kong Airport Authority and the Hong Kong University Council.

William K. Fung is Group Managing Director of Li & Fung Limited, and has held key positions in major trade and business associations. He is the past chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, the Hong Kong Exporters’ Association and the Hong Kong Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC). Fung is a member of the Trade Development Council. Yoram (Jerry) Wind is the Lauder Professor and Professor of Marketing at Wharton. He joined the Wharton faculty in 1967, with a doctorate from Stanford University. He is founding director of the SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management, the founding academic director of the Wharton Fellows Program and founding editor of Wharton School Publishing. He has published more than 250 papers and articles and over 20 books including The Power of Impossible Thinking in 2005. Wind has consulted and conducted research for more than 100 companies.

The Soul of the Corporation: How to Manage the Identity of Your Company

By Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly

In the burgeoning Age of Identity, competitive advantage is shifting from what a product is to the identity of the firm that markets it. More than ever, a firm’s identity shapes the results it can achieve. The Soul of the Corporation: How to Manage the Identity of Your Company by Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly offers managers a systematic, accessible, management-oriented way to understand, control and leverage their organization’s identity. Drawing on stories from organizations such as McDonald’s, Lenovo, Ford and the Catholic Church, The Soul of the Corporation argues that while identity can be an extraordinarily valuable asset, it can also become a huge liability if not managed well. Using the strategies illustrated by the authors, managers will discover how their organization’s identity is related to and different from its organizational culture, brand positioning and reputation. Methods for managing the unconscious shared beliefs that give an organization coherence as well as how to face the identity challenges that arise in mergers, alliances, spin-offs and acquisitions are also addressed.

The Soul of the Corporation offers business leaders a set of actionable ideas and guidelines that can be used to enhance their ability to diagnose and manage identity issues. Business leaders should be aware of the following, for instance:

• Be sure that the organizational identity projected through branding efforts is real. If it is not real, if it is mere sloganeering,
competitors or other unfriendly stakeholders may turn these branding efforts against you. Failure to observe this rule has exposed the British Petroleum Company (BP) and its top management to a storm of criticism since the 2005 explosion at the Texas City, Texas, refinery where 15 workers lost their lives.

• Ensure the consistency of corporate branding efforts targeted at various stakeholders. The risk of adapting each message to its recipients is that multiple, and sometimes conflicting, images may be projected, leading to confusion in the marketplace.

• Carefully align your own behavior and decisions with the organizational identity claims you make inside and outside the firm.

• Strive to realize synergies between handling identity at the level of the organization as a whole as well as at the level of  individual brands under which your firm’s products and services are marketed.

Co-author Hamid Bouchikhi is a professor of strategy and management and the director of the New Business Center at ESSEC Business School in Cergy-Pontoise, France. John R. Kimberly is the Henry Bower Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Wharton as well as professor of management, health care systems and sociology.