Contextual Intelligence

The MIB program is characterized by students, faculty, and research fellows who delve into the hard questions of international business with relish. These are questions that are not easily answered by a single book, class, discipline, or school of thought. They herald a future where the world and the world of business are ever more interconnected, where decisions can't be made in a bubble, where real expertise demands deep contextual intelligence.

This series of Ten Questions reflects the contextual intelligence we cultivate in our students in the MIB program. Click on a question below to read more about each topic and how we delve into this topic at Fletcher.

Forget BRICs. Is it Africa's turn?

KiberaFrom technology start-ups addressing Nairobi’s traffic jams to a regime change in Nigeria predicated on a platform of anti-corruption, Africa is a continent emerging as 55 distinct and dynamic nations. Its potential for broad-based growth is catching the eyes of entrepreneurial and private sector actors looking to expand. But where are the most viable areas of growth, and where will they fall short?


Learn more about how Fletcher thinks about Africa's role in the global economy:


The U.S., China, or Estonia: Who leads the digital planet?
boardBefore becoming consumers of digital marketplaces, the current three billion Internet users started with surfing and emailing. But the next billion will be different. They will start not as mere users, but rather as e-consumers – and this has profound implications for the future of global commerce and digital marketplaces.  Who are the next billion e-consumers?  So, who are the standouts of the future?

Which countries will race to the front, and which will be left behind? Hint: It's not the usual suspects. Learn more:

What’s the best route to an innovative city – through City Hall or the slum?

Delhi SlumDoes urban innovation get its start from governmental institutions and mandates, or through social movements and mass advocacy? Whereas city hall may plan for the greatest number of possible futures, local community structures are often the backbone of a household’s decision-making. The road to innovation is paved in action, and neither city hall nor the communities it serves can afford to sit back and wait. Fletcher research has focused on this question through our Financial Inclusion research group within the Institute for Business in the Global Context. 


 Learn more: 

Can phones fight poverty?

Cell Kiosk in NairobiThere are twice as many mobile phone subscribers as bank accounts in Indonesia. Last year, smartphone audience growth in India was almost 80% - the largest in the world. In Kenya, cellular phones have long been a hub for banking transactions. Cell phones as banking access points offer an unparalleled opportunity to improve the livelihood of millions through mobile financial services. Can mobile phones lead the un-banked out of poverty?


Learn more about Fletcher perspectives on mobile banking:

Are cheeseburgers the key to peace in the Middle East?
fast food in CairoAmid the scars of continued sectarian violence in Iraq there is a new player emerging in the streets of Baghdad: western-style fast food chains. American businesses have a unique role to play in stabilizing post-conflict zones. Faced with an immense untapped market but the very real threats of security and corruption, can investors see the risks as opportunities?

Learn more about Fletcher's discussions on this topic:

Can’t I just tweet the change I want to see in the world? #InsertCatchyCallToArmsHere
Social media-driven revolutions have transformed the branding and mobilization of social movements. It would seem these leaderless revolutions have displaced the Gandhis, Mandelas, and Kings of movements past. Yet the reality is that even this new breed of political revolution requires a Mandela—something we’ve forgotten in our eagerness to celebrate the power of a decentralized, digital generation. It turns out that #ACatchyCalltoArms isn't enough to make changes stick, and without a clear leader so many recent revolutions have devolved into chaos.
Learn more about our thinking on this question:
Is growth for good also good for growth?

ScaffoldCompanies often view the social challenges that surround business opportunities - poverty, poor sanitation, loose governance structures - through the lens of corporate social responsibility (CSR) or philanthropy. But today, as economic growth in emerging markets has begun to outpace the growth of supporting institutions and infrastructure, many of these “contextual gaps” have begun to pose real threats to long-term business success. To reframe how business is done in these contexts, companies must consider how sustainable and inclusive business activities are becoming what’s good for business.


Learn more about our research on this topic:

Will fewer bridges go up when oil prices fall?

BridgeThere is a burgeoning gap between global infrastructure needs and funding sources. Sovereign wealth funds, government pension funds, and other institutional investors could help bridge that gap. But how resistant are these funds to the highs and lows of oil prices? Can they withstand the volatility of the energy market and underwrite the major infrastructure projects so desperately needed in so many corners of the globe?


Read more about Fletcher's programming in this area:

If cash is dead, then why is that fat wallet still in my pocket?

checkAfter more than 2,000 years as king, cash is facing competition. From credit cards to the myriad new payment technologies available today, there are now safer, cheaper, and more accessible payment options for both consumers and businesses. Yet cash continues to hold on. Why? What are the intrinsic benefits of cash that no alternative can provide?


Read more about Fletcher's original research on the topic:

Flying Cars, Zombies and the Great Russian Novel: What can they teach us about becoming better leaders?

Leadership of global organizations involves an understanding of complex phenomena. Sometimes metaphors and cultural references are key to finding parallels, deriving insights, and communicating complicated ideas to a wide audience. Metaphors can be powerful in moving entire organizations to take action with a common vision.


Learn more about how Fletcher faculty tackle complex leadership challenges by making unexpected connections: