Letter from the Editor
BRICs and Other Nonsensical Business Terms
Article first published online: 19 DEC 2012
© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Thunderbird International Business Review
Volume 55, Issue 1, pages 1–2, January/February 2013
How to Cite
Teagarden, M. B. (2013), BRICs and Other Nonsensical Business Terms. Thunderbird Int'l Bus Rev, 55: 1–2. doi: 10.1002/tie.21519
- Issue published online: 19 DEC 2012
- Article first published online: 19 DEC 2012
Words matter. They shape our reality and frequently take on a life of their own well beyond the original meaning. Discussions of emerging markets often slip into linguistic shorthand. Terms like BRICs,1 Chindia,2 and reverse innovation3 are used without much thought given to their actual or implied meaning.
When I teach about culture and cross-cultural communications, I use the example of categorization. I show a slide with a panda, a monkey, and a cluster of bananas and ask, Which two of these belong in the same category? How we categorize things—animals, fruit, countries—matters since we emphasize similarities among items in the categories. BRICs describes four countries—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—that have fast growth and the potential to outperform economies like the United States' by 2050. However, as the term is commonly used, it implies that these countries are similar on many more dimensions when, in fact, they vary on most significant dimensions—institutionally, economically, culturally, socially, technologically—the list goes on. BRIC is a convenient classification, but implies much, much more than the realities each of these countries supports.
Chindia, another unfortunate term, is a subset of BRICs and implies a commonality between these two rapidly growing, big, industrializing economies. China and India are more different than they are alike and referring to them as a single entity does a major disservice to the countries and misleads business practitioners into believing that there are similarities where there are not.
In teaching about context, I show a slide of the MacArthur's Universal Corrective Map of the World,4 a map that puts the southern hemisphere on the top, and Australia in the middle. I use this to demonstrate that perspective matters. When we use terms like reverse innovation, made popular by Govindarijan and Trimble,5 the perspective being expressed is that developed countries like the United States or Germany is where innovation belongs. Everett Rogers, in his seminal book, Diffusion of Innovation,6 described innovation flows as movement of innovation among and between members of societies. From this perspective, there is no such thing as reverse innovation—only innovation and the diffusion of innovation. Reverse innovation implies a superior-subordinate perspective.
There is need for greater sensitivity and accuracy when we speak about emerging markets. Scholars like Debra Shapiro, Mary Ann von Glinow, and Zixing Zhao argue that polycontextuality—paying attention to the nuance of a context—is very important for scholars doing international research.7 To attend to the nuance of context, the academic or practitioner must first understand that context. This issue does that for many global locations and for many business topics.
At Thunderbird International Business Review we strive to provide articles and perspectives to help further our ability to specify context, differentiate phenomena, and discuss business topics with more accuracy. It is time for us to introduce more specific discussions of context into our work and stop using nonsensical terms.
The articles in this first issue of the year begin with a practitioner article by Siobahn MacDermott and J. R. Smith that focuses on managing personal data online. The authors offer solid advice for approaching this issue that touches us all. The second article, by Emanuel Gomes, Duncan Angwin, Yaacov Weber, and Shlomo Tarba, delves into the nuance of mergers and acquisitions through multiple lenses.
Raj Aggarwal provides our third article, which differentiates BRIC countries through the polycontextual examination of institutions, business models, and economic growth among these. Chima Mordi, Frederick Mmieh, and Stella Ibiyinka Ojo's article shifts our focus to Nigeria through an exploration of work-life balance in the Nigerian banking sector.
Paolo Spadoni and Julia Sagebien, the authors of our fifth article, bring attention to regional interdependence among Canada, Cuba, and the United States. Specifically, they speculate about post-U.S. embargo relations. Our sixth article, by Yi Zhang, Jean Brittain Leslie, and Kelly Hannum, explores derailment and the persistence of this troubling phenomenon despite our ability to identify it early and intervene.
Ping Zheng and Richard Scase, authors of our seventh article in this issue, examine the restructuring of China's market socialism through the application of agency theory. Finally, Thomas Thurston takes us into the world of venture capital.
We have many editorial board members leaving the Thunderbird International Business Review board this year. I would like to thank each and every one for their unflagging support of the journal and their willingness to go above and beyond what is necessary when asked. Thank you for your extraordinary service. We also have many new board members joining our editorial board. Suzy Howell, Managing Editor, and I look forward to working with you to bring international business insights to academics and practitioners around the world. Thank you to each of you for accepting our invitation to serve!
1. O'Neill, J. (2001). Building better global economic BRICS. Global Economics Paper No: 66. GS Global Economics Website, Goldman Sachs. November 30.
2. Sheth , J. N. (2007). Chindia rising. New Delhi, India: McGraw-Hill India.
3. See Govindarajan , V., & Trimble , C. (2012). Reverse innovation—Create far from home: Win everywhere. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School; Immelt , J. R., Goindarajan , V., & Trimble , C. (2009). How GE is disrupting itself. Harvard Business Review, September.
4. Retrieved September 10, 2012, from http://www.odt.org/southupmaps.htm
5. Rogers , E. (1962). Diffusion of innovation. New York, NY: Free Press.
6. Govindarajan & Trimble.
7 Shapiro , D., Von Glinow , M. A., & Zhao , Z. (2007). Toward polycontextually sensitive research methods. Management Organization Review, 3(1), 129–152.