In many ways, Walmart is the quintessential 20th century American company. It took an industry as old as time — retail — and revolutionized it by thinking critically about its conventions. And it used cutting-edge innovations like information technology to revolutionize supply-chain management.
But in other ways, Walmart foreshadowed 21st century innovation through its understanding of power of access. What makes Walmart a truly unique company is the way it is able to connect producers with consumers around the world with unimaginable efficiency. It is a force for interconnectivity and globalization in a way that even many Silicon Valley firms aren’t, and a vessel for the rewards and punishments of globalization. As Fishman says, “If you want to make something in Topeka, Walmart can sell it as easily in Costa Rica or China as they can in Kansas. If you’re a single entrepreneur in Mumbai, you don’t need a sales staff at all if you can sell it to Walmart, because they can sell it anywhere.” It’s this interconnectivity that has powered Walmart headlong into a new millennium, where it appears set to continue to thrive despite its size and the tenacity of its critics.