By: Thomas J. Fewer (Georgetown University), Dali Ma (Drexel University), and Diego Coraiola (University of Victoria)
Since the end of the Cold War, globalization accelerated international trade, grew global capital markets, and created more inclusive economic growth. However, strengthening geopolitical competitions between the US and China, and Western Europe and Russia have prompted nations around the globe to insulate their economies and their populations from outside forces. But what will this new geopolitical landscape mean for businesses operating across national borders? In a paper under advanced review at a top business journal, Entrepreneurship Initiative Fellow Thomas Fewer, along with Professors Dali Ma and Diego Coraiola look back at the last time the world was characterized by such a conspicuous divide: the Cold War. The authors conduct a historical case study of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a collaboration between NASA and the Soviet Space Program in the 1970s. They find that politics was an ever-present force in their collaboration, producing a number of barriers which hindered their ability to work together. To overcome these barriers, employees decided to subvert political control and meet in secret outside the organization. It was in the bars, barbeques, and shopping malls in which decades of political animosity were reduced, cultural misunderstandings were resolved, and friendships were formed. The authors use these findings to provide assurance to organizations and populations confronting political divides, arguing that the constraints to cooperation imposed by political institutions are not insurmountable.