Monday, August 15, 2011

Defining a Global Mindset

Global Mindset: Beyond Diversity
The term ‘global mindset’ is used here, there and everywhere, but what does it mean in the context of business leadership?

Recently, a client sent me an article that they had been using to educate their global leaders. It was called, ‘Cultivating a Global Mindset’ by Professors Anil K. Gupta and Vijay Govindarajan, Academy of Management Executive, 2002. Vol. 16. No. 1.  It was a very good article in many ways, but I felt its view of a global mindset was far too narrow:

“We would define a global mindset as one that combines an openness to and awareness of diversity across cultures and markets with a propensity and ability to synthesize across this diversity.”

Taking account of cultural and market diversity is an important element in a global mindset, but it is only one element.  It doesn’t take into account the range of issues and decisions that a global leader is faced with, many of which lie outside the diversity space per se.

In my view, a global mindset is:

An expansive way of seeing and thinking that grasps the individual, team, and organizational challenges and opportunities triggered by operating in a complex global business environment.

For the advantages of this expansive mindset to be realized, we need to connect it to leadership decision making via four global operating principles (principles I had first outlined in The Global Leader, McGraw-Hill, 1996).  

Integration: Making decisions that promote the ability of the organization to capture the economic benefits of global standardization while learning from, adapting to, and leveraging value-generating market, psychological, cultural, and operational diversity.

Flow: Making decisions that speed the flow of resources around the company to where they can add most value at any point in time. Resources include: people, information, knowledge, skills, and capital.

Leverage: Making decisions that use ‘global leverage points’ to best advantage (leverage points being points in a system where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything).

Optimization: Making decisions that produce best possible results for the business as a whole, not just the parts for which we have primary responsibility.

Going global is as much about mindset as capital investment, but let’s make sure what we call a global mindset takes much more than diversity into account.

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