Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Here is an interesting quote from"The Corner Office":

"News that Vikram Pandit will be the new chief executive officer of Citigroup, joining other Indians such as Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi (a woman) at the top of major U.S. corporations, comes at the same time that we learn that Tata Motors may buy Jaguar from Ford Motor. The Indians are on the move in several important respects and they clearly are ahead of their Chinese, Brazilian, and Russian counterparts, all members of the so-called BRIC club (Brazil, Russia, India and China.)"

My perspective on a special advantage Indians may have in a global economy relates to Emotional Intelligence: I think many Indians have is a more highly developed emotional intelligence -- derived, perhaps, from the Hindu tradition that intelligence is the gift of the mother goddess. This tradition links to Emotional Intelligence qualities such as empathy, patience, compassion, and nurturing. These skills are vital to compete successfully in a global economy and very undervalued in much of our Western world. Antoine de Saint-Exupery says (in "The Little Prince") “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” He could have been from India!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Do You Have Emotional Intelligence?

I agree with Geoffery James that success in life is related to the ability to "sell" - and "selling" is related to cognitive and emotional intelligence. The challenge is this: do intelligence tests actually measure "contemporary" intelligence?

We can all learn to do better at test taking - but that does not mean we are "more" intelligent. The problem, it seems to me, relates to test design. Emotional Intelligence is an aspect that was not measured by standard intelligence tests - does that make it a "new" intelligence or simply one that we did not know how to measure? There is a strong school of thought that suggests we cannot "improve" our EQ (Mayers, Salovey). But that doesn't mean that we cannot improve our emotional abilities and function "better". I may have no sense of direction, but I can learn to use a GPS system and find my way around.. Geoffey quotes an excellent article from the New Yorker which makes the point that current thinking among IQ experts is that even IQ can change, often substantially, over time, The New Yorker magazine.

Human Capital and the Value of Institutions

A comment by Peter Gordon at USC on "human capital" caught my eye because of the reference to Mexico. Gordon is quoting from a WSJ article by Ron Bailey commenting on a World Bank study entitled "Where is the Wealth of Nations?" Here is the quote:

"A Mexican migrant to the U.S. is five times more productive than one who stays home. Why is that?

The answer is not the obvious one: This country has more machinery or tools or natural resources. Instead, according to some remarkable but largely ignored research -- by the World Bank, of all places -- it is because the average American has access to over $418,000 in intangible wealth, while the stay-at-home Mexican's intangible wealth is just $34,000.

But what is intangible wealth, and how on earth is it measured? And what does it mean for the world's people -- poor and rich? That's where the story gets even more interesting.

Two years ago the World Bank's environmental economics department set out to assess the relative contributions of various kinds of capital to economic development. Its study, "Where is the Wealth of Nations?: measuring Capital for the 21st Century," began by defining natural capital as the sum of nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal and mineral
resources), cropland, pasture land, forested areas and protected areas. Produced, or built, capital is what many of us think of when we think of capital: the sum of machinery, equipment, and structures (including infrastructure) and urban land.

But once the value of all these are added up, the economists found something big was still missing: the vast majority of world's wealth! If one simply adds up the current value of a country's natural resources and produced, or built, capital, there's no way that can account for that country's level of income.

The rest is the result of "intangible" factors -- such as the trust among people in a society, an efficient judicial system, clear property rights and effective government. All this intangible capital also boosts the productivity of labor and results in higher total wealth. In fact, the World
Bank finds, "Human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries."

The world does not revolve around the United States

Michael Milken, the junk bond billionaire turned philanthropist is quoted as saying:
"Today the strength of the world's economy is helping America and the United States, and I think that will soften the blow of our downturn in housing,'' Then he makes a comment relative to global mindset:``We have to realize, similar to the time of Galileo, that the whole world is not necessarily revolving around the United States and the amazing story of America.'' Milken, chairman of the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank based in Santa Monica, California goes on to mention the importance of human capital: "The most important asset and the largest asset category in the United States or any country is human capital,'' . "The cure of cancer is worth $45 trillion to the U.S. economy. The elimination of heart disease as a cause of suffering and death is worth almost $50 trillion to the U.S. economy. The solution to those two problems far outweighs any other economic discussion which we could have today.''

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

International Customers

I saw a BNET blog this morning written by Geoffery James. He quotes a list from sales guru Jerry Acuff called “13 fundamental facts about human beings (especially customers).” Geoffery suggests that his edited list pretty much contains everything that you need to know in order to be successful at sales, at least when it comes to customer relationships. I completely agree -and because personal relationships are so important with international customers I have edited the list somewhat and pass it on to you.
  • International Customers want to feel that they’re important.
  • International Customers want to feel and be appreciated.
  • International Customers are interested in you - in most of the world, some personal relationship is the basis for a sale.
  • International Customers want the same two things in life as you: success and happiness.
  • International Customers want you to truly listen.
  • International Customers want to know that you appreciate and respect their culture.
  • International Customers will only connect if they feel valued by you.
  • International Customers buy emotionally and defend both logically and emotionally.
  • International Customers’ attention span is very short, most especially when you are not on their cultural wavelength.
  • International Customers with common interests have natural rapport.
  • International Customers want to feel and be understood.
  • International Customers are drawn to those who show genuine interest in them as persons.
  • International Customers love to teach you things they know.
  • International Customers want to associate with others who can help.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Do you have a global mindset?

Having a global mindset means the ability to scan the world from a broad perspective; always looking for unexpected trends and opportunities that may constitute a threat or an opportunity to achieve personal, professional or organizational objectives.

A global mindset is described by the Global Entrepreneurship Institute as a way of being rather than a set of skills. It is an orientation and a state of mind able to understand a product, a business, an industry sector, or a particular market, on a global basis. The executive with a global mindset has the ability to see across multiple territories, focusing on “commonalties across many markets.”

Over 63,000 or 77 percent of all the companies involved in exporting from the United States had fewer than 100 employees. A global entrepreneur seeks out and conducts new and innovative business activities across national borders. These activities may consist of exporting, licensing, opening a new sales office, or acquiring another venture.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cultural differences more difficult to spot

The phenomenon of globalization can lead us to minimize cultural differences or even to deny that they exist at all. Our ethnocentrism (focusing on our own culture) makes us see the world as we want to see and not as it truly is. As a result, we miss the plural, complex and varied dimensions of the world that we live and work in.
As a result, expatriates and their local associates at host destinations underestimate the need for cross-cultural training and expatriate coaching. Cultural differences in a global world are more difficult to detect. When we understand and appreciate the need to understand cultural differences we have already made a giant step on the road to cultural awareness. The challenge is to be willing to accept that training may be necessary when we don't even understand that there is a problem.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A "Global Perspective" to make you smile

Having a global mindset and being willing to embrace cultures different to one's own go hand in hand. Take a look at this cockatoo's take on embracing a culture different to his own. Tell me if it doesn't make you smile!
My company does not train dancing cockatoos, but we do coach executives and teams on crossing cultures!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Innovation, characteristic of a global mindset

As I write, I am waiting for the UPS man in his brown truck to show up soon. I am looking forward to receiving a package of new software that I ordered a few days ago. Using the UPS tracking site, I know everywhere my package has been on its long trip from California.

Sometimes we think of innovation in terms of breakthrough designs like Apple’s iPod and iPhone. But some of the best business innovations involve seeing new ways to serve customers with resources that are already there. While we need a global perspective to scout the world for new ideas, sometimes the best solutions may be right under our noses.

Consider the case of UPS. They used to rely on human engineering rather than employing extensive technology. In the old scheme of things, it cost $2 per call to track packages using an 800 number. In December 2006, they handled 130 million package tracking requests online at a cost of 1 cent each! UPS zeroed in on a basic capability of the Web - the ability to track packages from sender to receiver online. Their innovation allows them to provide better service at a much lower cost. The value added for the customer is that a scheduled delivery can be intercepted and re-routed if the customer so desires. Plus, the customer knows exactly where the package is during the delivery process.

Who exactly figured out the new system at UPS? I don’t know. But my guess is that it came from an individual or team that was thinking “outside of the box”, one of the characteristics of using a “global mindset”.

Keogh & Associates Consulting , LLC has many services to help your company compete by developing a global mindset.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An interesting story in today's business news says Taco Bell is opening restaurants in Mexico. By changing the branding strategy – “Taco Bell is something else” – the company will attempt to distance itself from comparison to Mexico's taquerias. Taquerias sell traditional corn tortillas stuffed with an endless variety of fillings, from spicy beef to corn fungus and cow eyes. Taco Bell plans on selling the same menu items as in the United States. It's like bringing ice to the Arctic,” complained pop culture historian Carlos Monsivais.

But because Taco Bell's version of “Mexican food” is so unrecognizable to Mexicans, it is being promoted there as American fast food. That's a change, since Taco Bell uses Mexican themes in the US to sell how “authentically Mexican” it is.
One of the company’s many slogans will work in both countries — “Make a run for the border.”

“Taco Bell wants to take advantage of the perception that if something comes from the United States, it tastes better, that a country that has been Americanized is willing to Americanize food that is central to its cuisine,” Carlos Monsivais said. “It is an absurd idea, and given that it's so absurd, it may just be successful in upper-class areas.”

Carlos Monsiváis is Mexico's leading cultural critic, and Mexico City's greatest living chronicler. He has written extensively and in evocative journalistic detail about Mexican history, culture and politics. He was born May 4, 1938, in Mexico City, and studied philosophy, economics and literature at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

While there is a multitude of Starbucks outlets in Mexico, they are mainly in wealthier neighborhoods. Taco Bell is aiming at a different demographic – opening in the solidly middle-class Monterrey suburb of Apodaca, an area where residents may not have traveled to the United States.

“We want to appeal to consumers who haven't tried Taco Bell, for whom this would be their first experience with Taco Bell,” said Javier Rancano, the company's director in Mexico.

While some "defenders" of Mexican culture see the chain's re-entry to Mexico as a crowning insult to a society already overrun by U.S. chains from Starbucks and Subway to Kentucky Fried Chicken, I applaud the initiative because is shows that Yum Brands Inc., the owner of the Taco Bell franchise is operating with a global mindset and is willing to cross cultures.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Manging ambiguity

Growing multinationals, whether they are based in the United States, India or elsewhere, all face a common problem: developing leaders who can manage global enterprises and take advantage of strategic opportunities. But do global leaders require a set of skills entirely different from those needed by their domestic counterparts? Yes they do!

Global Leaders need to develop is a consistent set of attitudes. This set includes curiosity, flexibility, willing to take risks, tolerance for ambiguity, open-mindedness, non-judgmental, openness to change, integrity, and optimism.

The reason that a Global Leader needs special characteristics is because doing business globally is fraught with uncertainty. This sense of never being fully "certain", is amplified by cultural differences. Of the characteristics that I have just mentioned, I think that the ability to tolerate ambiguity is vital.

In order to be able to develop tolerance for ambiguity Global Leaders need to "learn how to learn" in new situations. This critical skill is less valued in a purely "domestic" environment. A Global Leader has to be able to function successfully in new and unfamiliar situations and must know how to integrate this new understanding with existing skills and knowledge.

The Global Leader knows that he or she does not have al the answers. But the Global Leader knows how to find the answers, leveraging the knowledge of his collaborators. Line managers are the ones who most especially need to be attuned to learning to learn across different cultual environments

Different skills are needed for CEOs and top managers vs. line managers. It comes down to a difference between corporate strategy and business strategy. The leadership at the top is more responsible for managing the portfolio and doing due diligence, and for weighing whether it is better to acquire a firm or develop a strategic alliance. The line managers in businesses or SBUs are concerned with how to compete, how to overcome cultural differences and respond to local tastes, and how to integrate key functions or processes within the business to achieve local success.

Keogh & Associates Consulting , LLC has many services to help your company compete by developing a global mindset.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Global Mindset creates business opportunites

A comment by Dr. Cindy Corritore at Creighton University, relative to "Global Mindset", suggests a link between having a global mindset with the ability to innovate as a global entrepreneur. In the United States, the manufacturing sector is hard put to compete with other international competition. It costs us too much. This means that in order to be competitive in global markets we have to figure out new areas to be creative and to innovate. Entrepreneurs in India have this well figured out and they profit by providing low cost manufacturing and service centers. In order to do this they had to be thinking “globally”, they were aware of what was going on in our world. Their mindset was that of a “global entrepreneur”

The Japanese had already showed us how to make money by fine-tuning and improving products that they did not invent. I recently read an idea on how to make lots of money, not by launching a brand-new product or service but rather by adapting and improving a service or process that already exists.

An example is a company in Utah called “reminderband.com” They jumped on the “livestrong” wristband craze started by Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Prior to their innovation, the silicone wristband industry was driven by bulk orders of 10,000 or more bands which took weeks to manufacture and ship. Reminderband saw a niche in the custom wristband market that they could exploit if they could develop a way to cost effectively produce low quantities of custom silicone wristbands. Thanks to their ability to think globally, through their contacts they located a factory in Hong Kong to produce custom bands at a much lower cost. The company has prospered and is now known for delivering an excellent custom-made product to the customer’s doorstep in just days. Customers can order as few as 10 bands and have them in a matter of days. This is a good example of how the ability to think globally produces profits and keeps American companies in business.

Keogh & Associates Consulting , LLC has many services to help your company compete by developing a global mindset.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Global Mindset needs "Global" words

My title may be a little misleading - but not by much. In order to convey our ideas in the global workplace, we need to be able to communicate in more than one language. Have you noticed the Google translation buttons to the right of the column on this blog, with my posts (just below my goofy photograph? If you cut and paste a few sentences from a post, the electronic translator will - most times - deliver an instantaneous and fairly acceptable translation! Of course you can use these translators to read and to publish your comments on foreign language web-sites and blogs.

If you are at all like me, you will often run in to technical business words that you may find difficult to translate to other languages because they are often not found in commercial dictionaries. The Human Resources profession uses many such technical terms. I've just discovered a pretty neat web site, the "first European Human Resources lexicon". It is hosted by ADP a leading provider of Human Resources outsourcing in Europe. I think you will find it very useful when you manage terms like "return on investment", "human resources policy" or "relocation allowance" . If you check my web-site on services and keynote presentations related to human capital, you'll see that I write in English and Spanish on topics related to cross-cultural training, multicultural teams and emotional intelligence. The human resources lexicon provided by ADP should make my task easier and hopefully do a better job of translating technical terms on the Spanish language version of our site.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is Culture Limited to Humans?

photo of an orangutan mother with a baby on her back
Non-human culture?
This orangutan mother is
using a specially prepared
stick to "fish out" food from
a crevice. She learned this
skill and is now teaching it
to her child who is hanging
on her shoulder and intently

Here is an interesting perspective from Dr. Dennis O' Neill at the Behavioral sciences Department, Palomar College, San Marcos, California:
"There is a difference of opinion in the behavioral sciences about whether or not we are the only animal that creates and uses culture. The answer to this question depends on how narrow culture is defined. If it is used broadly to refer to a complex of learned behavior patterns, then it is clear that we are not alone in creating and using culture. Many other animal species teach their young what they themselves learned in order to survive. This is especially true of the chimpanzees and other relatively intelligent apes and monkeys. Wild chimpanzee mothers typically teach their children about several hundred food and medicinal plants. Their children also have to learn about the dominance hierarchy and the social rules within their communities. As males become teenagers, they acquire hunting skills from adults. Females have to learn how to nurse and care for their babies. Chimpanzees even have to learn such basic skills as how to perform sexual intercourse. This knowledge is not hardwired into their brains at birth. They are all learned patterns of behavior just as they are for humans".

There you have it! Meanwhile, check Keogh & Associates Consulting, LLC for more on culture related topics.

Definitions of Culture

One definition, used by the CARLA project at the University of Minnesota states that, for the purposes of their Intercultural Studies Project, culture is defined as the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group. Read more here to explore other definitions of culture.

At Keogh & Associates Consulting, LLC, we define culture as the "shared values, beliefs and assumptions of a group that result in a shared, characteristic behavior"

Empires of the Mind

Winston Churchill once observed that “The empires of the future will be the empires of the mind.” I have been suggesting that we are already well into a new era in which traditional concerns over the balance of power are being supplemented by anxieties over the balance of brains.

Due to the growing knowledge-intensive and people-intensive nature of economic activity, the war for talent is heating up. As the battle for brainpower goes global, its repercussions will undoubtedly impact the balance of power between companies, workers, and governments as well as the nature of future market equilibriums. Read more on "global mindset" especially with regard to the Pacific Rim economies.

In the "empires of the future", the Culture Dividend will play a large role.

The Global Mindset as a New Managerial Paradigm

Here is a good summary of why a global mindset is important for today's manager. It is from the Babson College website and refers to the book "Managing with a Global Mindset" by Jean-Pierre Jeannet.

Managers can be categorized into different type of mandates, ranging from domestic to international, regional, and multi-domestic. Each of these mindsets represents a particular point of view and is the result of different type of experiences. For the new emerging competition in the globalizing economy, the old mindsets will not suffice and a global mind will become necessary. But first, let us look at how managerial mindsets progressed over time.

The domestic mindset is characterized by a reliance on one market as the key reference and is the mindset most managers are born with. Domestic mindsets rely on a single reference point, their domestic markets, for judgments. For successful managers, who need to act in a globalizing economy, working with a domestic mindset tends to limit the point of view.

Representing the next level up is the international mindset characterized by one or few experiences in another country. The international mindset might come with different levels of international experience, ranging from casual international exposure through travel all the way to extensive foreign stay resulting in a capacity to integrate in a foreign country or environment. The international mindset, with a limited, but in-depth exposure, is, however, not identical to the more extensive global mindset.

A manager with extensive regional experience, such as throughout Latin America, or across Europe, may possess a regional mindset. The regional mindset is of interest because it includes experiences across a score of countries. Still further up the scale is the multinational mindset typical of executives who have been on successive international assignments in different countries. Although representing the backbone of the executive pool of many of our largest multinational firms today, executives with multinational mindsets are still not necessarily possessing true global mindsets.

The global mindset is defined, for the purpose of the book, as a state of mind able to understand a business, an industry sector, or a particular market on a global basis. The executive with a global mindset has the ability to see across multiple territories and focuses on commonalities across many markets rather than emphasizing the differences among countries. Companies which find themselves engulfed by extensive global pressures will need to acquire a large pool of executives who possess a global mindset and who are able to view business opportunities from a global perspective. Part of this global mindset is an entire set of new and different analytical tools that would not be needed by the previous domestic or multinational mindset. New strategies, resulting from responding to new market opportunities, are another part of this toolkit.

This global perspective differs substantially from the more traditional single-country, or domestic, and multinational perspective so much more typical today.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

McArthur's Rant

UK based Scott McArthur brings us an interesting point of view in his comment to yesterday's posting. He suggests that "we see with our brains not with our eyes". The filtering of what we see is "managed" by our brain and influenced as I described yesterday. Then Scott makes an intriguing connection with the law of attraction and the underlying principle. "If you look for something you might just find it!" Great point, thank you, Scott. http://mcarthursrant.blogspot.com

This brings to mind a case that I read about not too long ago which adds another twist; I believe that the location was Wales. A man lost his sight because of a fall. However, when this blind man was shown faces depicting strong emotions he was able to identify the correct emotion, displayed on the face, with an accuracy beyond statistical probability. The researchers suggest that even though his eyes do not transmit "pictures" to his brain - hence his blindness -, the path to his amygdala is still intact. The amygdala is a small, walnut shaped gland in the brain, that perceives emotions. The blind man is "seeing" emotions, with his brain. This relates to the topic of "emotional intelligence" which I believe is the "new" vital skill for thriving and surviving in our "global" environment. As I blog along, I'll get into the topic which, for me, is intrinsically related to having a global mindset.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Culture and "Mindset"

“Global Mindset” is something that we sometimes hear about and sometimes talk about. It seems like the concept might be interesting and relevant for our work and interpersonal connections now that we live in an environment that is becoming more “global” by the minute. “Global” has pretty obvious connotations – but what do we mean by “Mindset”?

The term has come to refer to how people and organizations develop a “filter” which helps them make sense of the world with which they interact. Without a filter, we would be overwhelmed by the amount, the diversity, the complexity and the ambiguity of the vast amount of information which we have to deal with every day. So, a “mindset” is a “cognitive filter”. How is it developed?

Our “cognitive filters” are the result of our experience, our society, our history. These filters help us organize and interpret the information that comes to us. If the information fits nicely into our filter, it reinforces our mindset. If we lived in an isolated environment, with little access to new information we would have a fairly limited mindset which, over time, could become quite “rigid” in order to protect our comfort zone. What would happen if we were to be bombarded with new novel information and experiences which did not fit comfortably into our filter – mindset?

Our mindset influences whether we accept or reject the new information! If we are not aware of our mindset and how it developed in our subconscious we run the risk of having a very rigid mindset - and of not being open to change and growth. So, I believe that our "mindset" is both a product of our culture and, at the same time, it is shaping our openness to new experiences and ways of thinking. A big first step on the road to developing a truly "global mindset" is becoming aware of our current mindset, our "cognitive filtration system"

Monday, September 24, 2007

Culture and Hell

Hell is where the Police are German,
The chefs, British,
The Mechanics, French,
The Lovers, Swiss,
And it's all organized by the Italians!

Heaven and Culture

Heaven is where the Police are British
The Chefs are Italian,
The Mechanics are German,
The Lovers are French (I'd say Irish!),
And it's all organized by the Swiss

Friday, September 21, 2007

Everything we say is influenced by our culture

Culture totally affects the way we communicate, even though, more often than not, as Edgar T Hall the noted anthropologist points out, it is hidden. We operate with a set of mostly invisible beliefs, values, and assumptions that become apparent to other people through our behavior. In the much used “iceberg model” of culture, “behavior” is what we see as the tip of the iceberg protruding above the water. Below the water, hidden, lie the “deep drivers” of our culture – what we believe value and take for granted as a group. These hidden drivers shape the behavior of a group which results in a “characteristic behavior”. To understand other cultures, we need to understand the values, beliefs and assumptions that drive our own “taken for granted” culture. If were ambassadors to a totally alien culture, how would we explain the values, beliefs and assumptions that shape our behavior as a group? More on culture and how it affects us....

One way to acquire a broader view of world events is to check out "World News" . A good place to start is the BBC, CNN International, International News and Newspapers online and etc. To jump start your quest, browse the up-to-date world news clips at the bottom of this blog!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Generational Differences

Generational differences need to be added to the cultural mix. Each one has its own “hidden drivers” of deep culture.

The Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, got their experience in command and control type organizations. For them (me!), working hard, long hours and putting the business first is how they learned to succeed by creating value. The newer generations are different. For them, part of their “taken for granted” culture is technology. They also grew up with far more personal independence, in a more overtly global environment where they focus more on output than input. Just like the long summer vacations of the Europeans, the new Generations are actually living what my generation only dreamed of! They want to be measured on the quality of their work rather than the hours they put in or their prowess on the corporate ladder. They want to be mentored, not talked down to. When it comes to working, managing or selling across the generational divides, cross-cultural communication skills will pay big dividends. This is true, whether we run a small business, manage HR for a multinational or we are involved in direct sales in our local market.

According to the US Census Bureau, 2000, racial and ethnic diversity is increasing:

  • Baby boomers: White (74%), Hispanic (10%) African/American (11%)
  • Mature: White (81%), Hispanic (6%) African/American (9%)
  • Gen X: White (66%), Hispanic (14%) African/American (14%)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sense of Self

Sense of self Is a short, entertaining video. It certainly relates to Global Mindset! It's fun and well worth a look. I found it at Globalmindshift.org

The author of the video, Kenji Williams, is an award winning filmmaker, electronic music producer, theatrical show director, and classically trained violinist. Combining unique skills in film and music, Williams has earned international film awards from the CSC to Sundance. He is the composer and producer of 6 music albums, director of 15 films and music videos, 3 feature length projects, and 2 multimedia theatrical live shows. Williams is internationally respected for pushing the boundaries of audio visual art and performance.

Survival of the fittest

The globalization of business through the advances in technology is parallel to a whole new world of personal interconnectedness. The new interpersonal connectedness has come about through cheap air travel, T.V., global media, the internet, Voip, Skype, Blogging, Instant Messaging, Podcasts, Wikis, and etc. Little by little it seems that our micro-cultures (family, education, work, church, fashion, nation, sense of “what is cool”) are being slowly absorbed into a more diffuse global macro-culture. The pace of change is accelerating; it’s difficult and, sometimes, unsettling, to constantly have to adjust and adapt. It’s useful to remind ourselves that ‘survival of the fittest’ is all about our ability to adapt. So we don’t have too much choice.
To remain – or become - a productive and successful contributor in the global environment in which we now live and breathe means that we need updated skills to be able to understand the global phenomenon in terms of how we communicate with those who at first blush seem so different. We get to make choices. And, of course, all choices have consequences for better or worse. Read more...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Specific challenges for international HR

Global organizations are focused on human capital issues. There seems to be an almost global consensus that people issues are vital to company success. As the "war for talent" intensifies, the acceptance of the importance of human capital will continue to grow. Among the people challenges, there is a broad consensus, across international regions, on what the important challenges are. They include:
  • The development of "global" leaders
  • The creation of a high-performance global corporate culture & high-performing teams
  • Managing talent (recruitment, retention, training, compensation & incentives)
If HR professionals are to be seen to play a crucial role in strategy and operational results they need to pick up the gauntlet on these people issues and act as "functional leaders". This means more time spent focusing on the business drivers and less on HR "programs and services". Adopting the role of global, functional leadership is the great opportunity for HR professionals. They need to be perceived as being totally committed to improving the business - which they must understand as well as any other leader - by their expertise in "people issues". For many years now, I have believed that the globalization of business presents an incredible opportunity to the HR profession. To succeed they absolutely need a "global mindset". See "Strategic Opportunity for HR Professionals"

Monday, September 17, 2007

China, culture and the "war for talent"

A comment to an earlier post suggests that “The small investment up front to embrace the dynamics of other societies is key to successful global operations”. I appreciate the use of the word “investment” in the context of training and global mindset development. So often “global” initiatives are canned because of the myopic way in which they are presented and perceived as “costs”. Not a bad example of the lack of a global mindset!

Another example comes to mind: the “war for talent”. Despite common misunderstandings, the war for talent is raging in China. How do I attract and retain the best and the brightest in a "group" oriented society which is quite contrary to the Western cultural focus on the "individual"? Will special benefits Western style benefits - like hiring bonuses or increased individual compensation - work in the Chinese cultural context? The generic answer is “no”, or, at least, not as well as in cultures that favor the individual as opposed to the group.

My experience in the China marketplace (mostly Shanghai) suggests the need for more innovative approaches. The Chinese are brought up to expect equal treatment in all aspects of their lives (a cultural expectation reinforced by their experience of Communism). This is less of a factor in hiring the younger generations. Their experience of capitalism, in the big cities, has encouraged them to be more open to career competition and individual rewards. However, because deep culture changes exceedingly slowly, a culturally savvy recruitment program must ensure that the reward systems must be clearly communicated and be perceived as being fair. Otherwise the program will be sabotaged by jealousy and feelings of being treated unjustly between the workforce and the new recruits.

To win the war for talent in China requires an educated global mindset in the corporate leadership. Otherwise, how do they design and promote a culturally effective hiring program? How do they communicate the program elements so that they won’t run in to cultural roadblocks? A relatively small investment in cross-cultural development will yield measurable results on ROI… saving untold avoidable “costs” caused by ethnocentric approaches. And the "war for talent" is just one example...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Leadership & Culture

Most experts are agreed that a key component of leadership is “strategic thinking,” which, of course, needs to be complemented by the ability to carry out or implement the strategy. A second frequently cited skill is “vision,” which is considered to be a critical leadership capacity. So, we have two components; the first related to cognitive capacity, and the second related to what we now know to be “emotional intelligence”. We also need to consider an international variable: does our culture affect our leadership style?

By culture I mean the characteristic behavior, which defines a group of people and is the result of their sharing the same set of values, beliefs and assumptions. Of course, we must remember that our shared values, beliefs and assumptions are influenced by the history, religion and geography of where we grew up. I am from Ireland, a relatively small island with a damp climate and a long history where politics and religion have been intertwined. In contrast, a Mexican is from a region in the new world, bordered on the north by the most affluent country in the world and to the south by the countries of Central America. Mexican culture is shaped by a range of climates and by a long history including pre-Hispanic civilizations, Spanish domination and the resulting mixture that is contemporary Mexico.

Obviously what we each value - Irish and Mexican - shapes our respective behavior. The forces of history, religion and geography clearly play a large role in determining what our values and beliefs are as a people. Our educational systems serve to reinforce our basic values and resulting culture. “Deep” culture does not change quickly, and people who have not had the opportunity to live outside their national culture are very often unaware of the nature of cultural differences. So how exactly does culture affect leadership?

Culture influences our notion of leadership and helps determine whether the style is participative or autocratic. In countries like Japan, Holland and Scandinavia, leadership style involves consensus. Some Latin and Anglo Saxon countries tend to favor a more charismatic style of leader. Other countries – Russia and Saudi Arabia are good examples – tend to favor a style based on centralized decision making. Hence, perhaps the first attribute of a “global leader” (in addition to commonly accepted notions of what makes a leader) is a keen understanding and deep respect for cultural differences.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Global Leaders & Ethical Dilemmas

In the practical world of international business, the ability to understand and respect differences is necessarily tied to the ability to reconcile the ethical dilemmas that can result from cultural differences. Business problems can be solved. Dilemmas, on the other hand, need to be reconciled. As long as we manufacture in low wage environments and sell the resulting products in high wage markets, we will be faced with culturally derived ethical dilemmas. So, can one be a global leader without knowing all the answers to cultural dilemmas?

A leader who truly understands and respects the dynamics of cultural differences will quickly become aware that a “global leader” knows – and accepts – that he or she does not have all the answers. This new breed of leader must know how to learn from this or her associates – and they must “learn to learn” in different cultural environments. Each day, the global leader has to ask: Where am I today? Who am I talking to? How can I be most effective here? Getting the right answers to these questions requires a well-honed ability to pick up on all the clues offered by the new international environment. Read more...

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Being able to solve problems is not enough anymore

Culture is not something that we think about analytically. As Americans, living in a multicultural society, we are particularly prone to this strategic error. In our business model, managers are expected to solve problems - there is usually a “right” way and a “wrong” way. In the international arena our managers, more often than not, will be required to solve “dilemmas”. “Dilemmas” result when the nuances of different cultural approaches may mean that what is “right” in my culture may not be appropriate in my host’s culture. Global managers need to be taught how to “reconcile” dilemmas - how to develop mutually agreeable solutions based, more often than not, on interpersonal trust and respect for cultural differences. When we reconcile dilemmas we come up with a new solution resulting from the synergy of divergent viewpoints. The power of the new approach may amaze us. Read more...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Strategic opportunity for HR professionals

It is almost impossible for employees to cultivate a global mindset - or for the organization’s leaders to acquire global skills - unless the culture of the organization itself is imbued with global effectiveness thinking, skills and behaviors.

At a time when business process outsourcing should be liberating us to focus on strategic rather than tactical issues, it is good to remind ourselves that developing organizational global effectiveness may be one of the most important contributions that HR professionals can make, if we are to have, or retain, a “seat at the table” in shaping corporate strategy.

Organizations devoid of a global way of thinking will not fare well in the international arena. Because human capital is the defining competitive differentiator of most organizations, HR's commitment to the task of attracting, retaining and managing the best talent available is its major strategic challenge. Read more...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The "war for talent" and Global Mindset

Will individuals who have developed global understanding and cultural competencies thrive in an organization that does not possess a "global mindset"? Will they stay with that organization? Will they help their organization win the "war for talent" or will they move on to greener pastures?

To achieve sustainable results, effective cross-cultural training should include on-going coaching

Acquiring the competencies to be an effective cross-cultural business communicator is a “process”, not an “event”. We become internationalists by learning from our mistakes, by learning to be more accepting and flexible by acquiring a profound respect for the differences that separate us. Cross-cultural management coaching, delivered periodically by phone and e-mail, one-on-one, during the first months of the assignment, is the factor that will help ensure enduring success. On-going coaching from an experienced, knowledgeable and caring professional will help ensure that the cultural understanding, acquired in the class-room training, will become a transformational reality in the daily work life of the person being coached. Having the opportunity to serve as a coach to clients engaged in cross-border business, is an extremely rewarding aspect of my new life as a coach/consultant. It helps transform the training "event" into a life-changing "process".

If you agree that human capital is vital to organizational success and you are committed to developing a global mindset in your workforce, I would like to suggest you consider providing cross-cultural training which would incorporate some of the ideas that I've mentioned.


  • Define measurable learning goals

  • Incorporate specific modules to teach the emotional skills needed for cross-cultural effectiveness

  • Seek behavioral modification, if necessary (it usually is!)

  • Envisage cross-cultural training as a process rather than an isolated event

  • Identify and assess candidates who would benefit from executive coaching

Read more....

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cultural adaptation is a process

Do we honestly think that a one or, at most, two day cultural training course is going to produce the behavioral changes that are necessary for genuine cross-cultural adaptation? Those going abroad will benefit from pre-departure training which will give them an overview of the new culture and help prepare them to deal with the challenging reality of “culture shock”. (“Culture shock”, by the way is something of a misnomer – a "shock", to my way of thinking, suggests an event which happens in a very reduced time-frame from which we recover quickly. What we mean by "culture shock" is a minor state of depression that can last up to 10 weeks, post arrival at the new location, and is prone to re-occurrence).

Post-arrival cultural training, when the brief “honeymoon” period is wearing down, is very necessary. To be truly relevant and useful, this cross-cultural training must deal with the aspects of emotional adjustment which are especially vital for the adaptation of the accompanying spouse. It is important to ensure that measurable outcomes are incorporated into the training curriculum and that the sojourners are given practical advice on setting up their “emotional” networks. I suggest that “emotional management” (in the “scientific” acceptance of the terms) is emerging as a major key to success in the global marketplace. Interestingly, we do not learn emotional intelligence from CD-ROMs or from books. We learn it from our mothers, from our teachers, coaches and (if we are very lucky) bosses. Cultural adjustment is more of a "process" than an "event". So, I think it is more cost efficient to offer pre-departure cultural training to candidates for expatriation and cross-cultural coaching once they have settled in at their new location. Read more...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Beyond cultural briefings

Cultural briefings, consisting mostly of information “dumps” and pointers on etiquette, can be helpful for leisure travel but they are certainly not sufficient for cross-cultural business effectiveness. Having been privileged to live and work in six different countries, I am a firm believer that it is not enough to learn “facts” about other countries and cultures. We need to understand the “deeper” underlying culture.

Despite this, much of what goes by the name of cross-cultural training today is designed to provide cultural “information” to individuals who may be working with people from different cultures. In addition to the standard, factual information dump, training often includes a description of contrasting cultural “dimensions” (for instance: the US is described as an “individualistic” culture, where the individual reigns supreme vs. Mexico or Japan which are “group oriented” cultures). This can be a helpful and necessary way to acquire a cognitive understanding of the “other” culture but it can also lead to inaccurate and misleading stereotypes which do not help foster cultural acceptance.

Another important element is often overlooked in cultural training. Our ability to manage across cultures requires a substantial use of what we call “emotional intelligence”. We now have strong, empirical data which allows us to measure, describe and train emotional intelligence in ways that are meaningful for cross-cultural adaptation. Hence, in an economy as global as the one we live and work in, where we are constantly bombarded with factual and technical information, it is time to reevaluate how we prepare ourselves and our teams for vital cross-cultural business interaction. Read more...