Skip to Content
MIT News magazine

New Research on Globalization

Suzanne Berger has new data on globalization.

Some people believe that manufacturing goods in low-wage countries raises those countries’ standards of living; others argue that globalization is to blame for a loss of jobs and job security in the United States. Although opinions tend to be heated and opposed, both sides turn out to be right.

“Globalization means a world of opportunity and a world of danger,” writes Suzanne Berger, director of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives, in her new book, How We Compete: What 545 Companies around the World Are Doing to Make It in Today’s Global Economy. The book is the culmination of a five-year study conducted by the MIT Industrial Performance Center (IPC). With professor of nuclear science and engineering Richard Lester (IPC’s founder and director), Berger and a team of 13 professors and students visited more than 500 companies – some of them twice – to gain insight into how companies are responding to globalization.

The MIT group observed firsthand a wide range of companies – integrated-circuit designers in Silicon Valley, auto-parts makers in Mexico, even a balloon manufacturer in Minnesota. After witnessing a great variety of practices and asking hundreds of managers the same questions about how they were adjusting to globalization, the group concluded that there is more than one way to succeed in the global economy.

“What makes globalization so frightening to people is the thought that we’ve lost all control,” says Berger. “If there’s a single point the book tries to make, it’s that even with these pressures, there are very different ways of responding. It’s about the existence of space for choice and action and the importance of leadership within companies.”

The study found that even within industries, companies have found vastly different paths to success. Dell, for example, does design and marketing in-house but outsources almost all manufacturing to a Taiwanese supplier. Samsung, by contrast, retains internal control of everything from initial product development to manufacturing.

Visiting 500 companies in five years was no easy task, especially on days that involved “getting multiple people to a hot, dusty location in the Guangdong province,” says Lester. But Berger and Lester agree that there’s much to be gained from doing bottom-up research. Berger hopes that by providing readers with a trove of examples, the book will help move the discussion of globalization from general principles toward specific realities – and ultimately “make it possible for people whose positions are really opposed to have a thoughtful discussion.”

Recent Books
From the MIT community

Guanxi (The Art of Relationships): Microsoft, China, and Bill Gates’s Plan to Win the Road Ahead
By former Technology Review editor in chief Robert Buderi, a research fellow in MIT’s Center for International Studies, and former Technology Review senior writer Gregory T. Huang, SM ‘92, PhD ‘99
Simon and Schuster, 2006, $26.00

Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq
By Ahmed S. Hashim, SM ‘83, PhD ‘90
Cornell University Press, 2006, $29.95

The History and Politics of Voting Technology: In Quest of Integrity and Public Confidence
By Roy G. Saltman, SM ‘55
Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, $69.95

Perceptual Coherence: Hearing and Seeing
By Stephen Handel ‘62
Oxford University Press, 2006, $89.95

Physics Demonstrations: A Sourcebook for Teachers of Physics
By Julien Clinton Sprott ‘64
University of Wisconsin Press, 2006, $45.00

Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn
Edited by Dvora Yanow, PhD ‘82, and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea
M. E. Sharpe, 2006, $89.95

Leadership Mastery in Turbulent Times
By Herbert Kindler ‘48
Thomson Course Technology, 2005, $19.99

Please submit titles of books and papers published in 2005 and 2006 to be considered for this column.

Write MIT News, One Main Street,
7th Floor, Cambridge MA 02142
Fax 617-475-8043

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.