Speaking with Parag Khanna
Our editor, Elen Lewis, talks to our conference speaker to get his thoughts on mega-city clusters and global politics.
What do all marketers need to know about global connections?
Global connectivity is a pervasive and ever-expanding reality. It is the bedrock of globalization. Measures of trade and investment and tourists may rise and decline each year, but the force of connectivity has been accelerating for the past 60,000 years. It can never be switched off. In fact, it is our deepest human impulse.
What are the three most exciting opportunities for brands and business in this ever-changing world?
The greatest opportunity is to be global; to transition even from being a multinational to what is called a "metanational," a company that is effectively stateless, global but local everywhere and meeting local needs.
And the challenges?
The biggest challenge is to scale and be affordable. Our technology giants like Google and Facebook have done this because they have invested massively in scale and are virtually free to use. I am witnessing many companies struggle with either scaling or becoming affordable, but both are essential.
What do we all need to know about mega-city clusters?
Mega-cities are the centers of global demographics and economic activity. About 50 mega-cities dominate the world and matter more than most all of the world's 200 countries. In Connectography I've mapped these clusters and shown their enormous economic gravity. The mega-city map of today is not much different from what it will be in 2030, so it is actually a roadmap for countries to plan their global strategies.
What is the most adventurous trip you’ve ever taken and what was most surprising about it?
In the summer of 2006 I spent about two months driving across all of Tibet and Xinjiang. It was a 3,500km trip with almost no good roads. These two provinces of western China represent two-thirds of the country's geography but are vastly under-developed. At that time the Chinese military had not really built out the infrastructure as they are working on now. Perhaps nobody going there ever again will witness it in this relatively untouched way. The ethnic diversity is also so under-appreciated, and the ruggedness is as arduous as any part of the globe. The northern Himalayan region and Tibetan plateau truly are the most pristine "roof of the world."
What advice would you offer to brands looking to thrive in this brave new world?
Be useful. Make people's lives easier and more efficient. Make people feel lean and light, since that is the new reality in this mobile and spending-conscious world.
What can Game of Thrones teach us about global politics?
It's chaotic and unpredictable, full of surprises -- but some of those seem obvious in retrospect! It's a world where nobody is clearly allying with anyone; everyone is out for themselves.
What advice would you offer your 17-year-old self?
Learn to code! But also take foreign languages even more seriously. Don't just dabble in Arabic and Mandarin and Russian but command them. Oh, and get seriously fit!
What book is on your bedside table?
For all the books I've written (and my wife too), you won't find any physical books in our house anymore -- we've gone digital! (Well, the kids have lots of children's books though.) I'm reading Kevin Kelly's book The Inevitable. He is a real techno-philosopher, an intellectual icon.
Tell us a secret
My next book is coming out much sooner than anyone thinks. It's called Technocracy in America: And the Rise of the Info-State. We'll be springing it upon the world in early January 2017.
Parag Khanna is just one of the speakers at our Global Annual Conference on November 17th alongside NASA astronaut, Ed Lu; McDonald’s global CMO, Silvia Lagnado and Nicola Mendelsohn, VP Facebook EMEA.