Still, while Palmisano will never be confused with Karl Marx or Frantz Fanon, his recognition that the organization of a typical multinational mirrors colonialist political structures--and thus needs to change lest it suffer the same fate--is both enlightened and refreshing, coming as it does from a company whose previous CEO famously said "The last thing we need is a vision."
In Palmisano's view, the chief difference between the classic MNC and the new, globally integrated enterprise is that the former sets up shop in new markets mostly just to sell stuff and send money back to the home office. Local personnel are limited to low level production and sales functions. The GIE, on the other hand, invites and encourages locals to fully participate at all levels, depending on their skills and talents. Hence, IBM's India operations carry out advanced R&D that's crucial to its future. Indian managers have opportunities throughout the company--and not just within India.
Proving that CEOs love their children too, Palmisano says he wants to make IBM a GIE not solely because it's an efficient way to organize a company that does business around the world. Sticking with the old MNC model, he says, inspires protectionism against the West or, in the worst case, nightmarish acts of terrorism. "Left unaddressed, the issues surrounding globalization will only grow. People may ultimately elect governments that impose strict regulations on trade or labour," writes Palmisano. "Worse, they might gravitate toward more extreme forms of nationalism, xenophobia and anti-modernism."
To be sure, IBM's push into India (and China and South America) is chiefly about taking costs out of its operations. It's what efficient corporations are supposed to do. But shouldn't we also applaud Palmisano's recognition of the fact that a company with the size and scope of IBM has responsibilities that go well beyond pleasing Wall Street?