Calamity does not respect geographic boundaries, and—as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated—the worst catastrophes often spread across multiple locales and require careful consideration of varying expectations and cultural considerations. In the first two installments of this three-part series, we addressed how business crises vary in scope and scale, and what companies may do to anticipate and effectively manage such situations. This installment looks at the ways in which these crises may vary from location to location, and analyzes the complications unique to managing a global crisis on multiple fronts.

President John F. Kennedy famously referenced the etymology of weiji, the Chinese word for crisis in his 1960 campaign speeches, in a now oft-repeated soundbite: According to Kennedy, “the Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.” While it is true the first character, wēi, translates to mean “dangerous” or “precarious,” linguists have explained that the second character, jī, is polysemous and does not mean “opportunity”—it is closer to something like “change point.”

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