I had the opportunity to see Bill Clinton speak yesterday at the World Business Forum here in New York. Although Clinton was somewhat subdued (he was clearly tired from what he described as “pulling more all-nighters in the last three months trying to finish his memoirs than he had back in college), he clearly set out a worldview that he uses to think about the world and its problems. He called it “global interdependence” and explained how when it’s good, it allows for a vibrant world economy (like the one through much of his administration) and when it’s bad, its open borders and freedom and technological advances allow tragic events such as 9/11 to occur. On balance, though, Clinton believed it’s good for us and the benefits outweigh the negatives.
Within this worldview, Clinton explained that the way he operates within it is to think about how we relate to each other and to the rest of the world. With each decision he has to make, he can view it through that prism and see if on balance, it’ll be a positive thing for the global community or a negative. He argued that we need to act on our own when we must, but cooperate every other instance when we can. Clearly Clinton, among others, thinks that President Bush has made a mistake in acting alone in international relations instead of cooperating with other countries in the world.
Put aside politics and whatever you may think of Clinton (a hard thing, I know. I admit that I am not a particularly big fan) and think about it in a business context (after all, he was addressing a business audience). When should we act alone and when should we cooperate? When does our worldview about what we believe is the right way to do business hinder the decisions we ultimately make?