Primitive men cleaved their universe into friends and enemies and responded with quick, deep emotion to even the mildest threats emanating from outside the arbitrary boundary. With the rise of chiefdoms and states, this tendency became institutionalized, war was adopted as an instrument of policy of some of the new societies, and those that employed it best became – tragically – the most successful. The evolution of warfare was an autocatalytic reaction that could not be halted by any people, because to attempt to reverse the process unilaterally was to fall victim.
-E.O. Wilson, On Human Nature
As every day passes we are become more and more a globalized society. With this ongoing cycle we come across a vast multitude of impasses. One of the main ideas leading toward this “global paradox” is the concept of global mindset. In this paper we will discuss all of the aspects of the global mindset: what it is, how it helps people live productively and successfully in the globalizing society, and how to develop an effective global mindset.
Having a global mindset is a crucial competence of most businesses futures. What crucial competence means is the most sought after characteristic. Any level of manger that does not act with a global strategy will be left in the dust in today’s globalizing markets. So what is a global mindset? Before we discuss what a global mindset is we must look at the reasons why we need a global mindset, so we can get a clearer picture of what we actually need.
The world is becoming more interconnected and there have been recent changes in the world political systems. Incidents such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union; as well as revolutionary advances in communication technology. The implications for higher education in this changing world scene are significant as the new global workplace, driven by the up and coming information technology (IT) area, has made communication in daily life increasingly multinational and multicultural (Kim 617). Informal education is also a way to start. By this we mean that you don’t have to go to formal classes to learn. Just by paying attention to people from other cultures in every day life we can enlarge our global mindset.
In a class offered at the University of Rhode Island, BUS/COM 354, International Business Communication Exchange, students work in teams and individuals with students overseas. In an article written by Professor Chai Kim, who teaches this class, it is stated, “More than ever, students must be trained to work with partners across cultural and natural borders. To adequately prepare each student for the next century, educators must develop strategies to assure not only the mastery of abilities in functional areas of business and technology but also the command of intercultural communication skills. Accomplishment of this goal is one of the biggest challenges facing institutions of higher education today. (Kim 617). This quote exemplifies the need for the global mindset and gives a concise outline of what it is.
This semester in Professor Kim’s BUS/COM 354 class, students engaged in an e-mail debate with students from Braunschweig University in Germany and also engaged in an e-mail discussion with students from Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.
We found a lot of information on global mindset, however, we did not find a concrete definition. But we did find a definition of mindset. “Mindset is the perception filter through which we see the world” (Chen and Starosta). So what we did was pool all of our individual information and try to come up with a definition in our own terms. What we came up with is, “global mindset is the ideology that one must take with him/her into today’s society. Not necessarily business, but life in general. It incorporates intercultural sensitivity, intercultural awareness, and cultural diversity knowledge. It reduces ethnocentrism and eliminates parochialism, moreover, using a broad range of vision so you can view yourself not as a part of a singular nation among many nations, but a member of one global nation.
So now we have a definition we can go back to the reasons that we need a global mindset. The global mindset is possibly most widely seen in an institution like the World Trade Organization. The WTO in short is responsible for reducing taxes and tariffs, which in turn opens up global business markets. Here’s a brief look at some statistical information that shows how the world is financially diverse and how money distribution is very unequal. The gap between the rich and the poor is ever-widening. In 1960, 20 per cent of the world’s population living in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20 per cent. By 1997, the richest were 74 times richer (Balls and Peel 1). The World Trade Organization attempts to shorten this gap by opening up trade barriers. However, there are many people out there with closed mindsets who do not want these trade barriers opened. Surprisingly many of these people are in the United States. It is probably true that as the World Trade Organization’s goals become more attainable there will be some U.S. jobs and money lost. One must realize though, that the amount of world wide jobs and income earned by the lifting of these barriers will exceed the amount of U.S. loss ten fold. There were demonstraters at the WTO conference last week in Seattle, WA. People dressed up as sea turtles in revolt to the fact that if things go as planned for the WTO one of the trade results would be the U.S opening seafood trade with Malaysia. Malaysian shrimp fisherman have nets that kill sea turtles. The important question is: In the grand scheme of things what is more important, the life of a sea turtle or the Malaysian fisherman being able to put food on his families table. These demonstraters, although their cause is very noble, they are not looking at this issue through globalized eyes.
The example just written about shows us a possible future look at a globalized society, but there are many more intricacies needed to give us a global mindset. A lack of communism must occur for a real step to be taken. China is one of the few communist nations left on earth, however its population is tremendous. There are well over one billion people in China. As of now, or shall we say three weeks ago, the U.S. did not trade with China, and vice versa. The Chinese market is one with such tremendous potential and capability, it just needs to be tapped. The U.S. and China talked trade and came to an agreement. One that hadn’t been able to be reached in thirteen years of on and off negations (Eckholm). So what does this have to do with global mindset? One might say what the heck does Malaysian shrimp fishing have to due with global mindset. These examples are of real life events taking place now that show very clearly the path and direction our society is traveling in. You need concrete examples to show you some sort of idea how to get on this path. This leads us into the next part about what it takes from you, me, or a top-level, corporate manager to have a global mindset.
The first and definitely the most important thing to have when trying to begin or expand your global mindset is “open-mindedness.” It seems too simple to be the most important detail in such a complex topic, however, you can’t get anywhere without being open-minded. Once you’ve become open-minded you must put all of your ethnocentric beliefs aside and totally eliminate parochialism. By this we mean that everyone has ethnocentric beliefs. For example, if you have a valid driver’s license in the United States, you drive on the right side of the road. However, in the United Kingdom you drive on the left side of the road. You may think that your way is the best way, but in order to function in the United Kingdom, you must drive on the left side of the road. This is a mild example of ethnocentrism, the belief that my way is the best way. Unfortunately, parochialism exists. This is the belief that, my way is the only way. The person who used this attitude would refuse to drive a car in the United Kingdom.
Secondly, we need experience. This is key to developing a global mindset. You don’t develop a global mindset by sitting on your couch in Nowheresville, USA. Get out there and interact with other people. A good example of this experience is through education, like we discussed earlier pertaining to the cross-cultural communication experienced in the BUS/COM 354 at URI.
Another very important aspect of defining your global mindset is job experience. Almost all of us who are working Americans work with someone from a different culture. Not only can you work with them, you can learn from them. If you are in a employment situation where you do work with someone from a different culture, do you work well together? If they don’t speak English can you still communicate with them? These are things that we need to think about in all working situation. If you get a job and realize that many of your co-workers are from different cultures it is important that you act in a culturally synergistic fashion. Or at least make an attempt to interact with them on a daily basis by using part of their culture. If you are the first one to take this step often times they will follow you and a culturally synergistic level can be reached. If they make the first step then it is up to you as a well-rounded person with a global mindset to follow in their footsteps.
It is important for us now to take a look why it is important to have a global mindset in today’s business world, then examine some managerial tactics to define this mindset. The number one thing is that you don’t want to be left behind, while other more “globalized” individuals take the jobs and money that you could have. Michael Hick is a speaker on globalization and the importance of a global mindset. We are going to take a brief look at some of the ideas he poses and these can be found on his website at www.michaelhick.com. He first states the importance of a business global mindset, “Having Global Mindset is the crucial competence of your business future. Any level of Manager who does not act with a Global strategy will be left in the slipstream as business hurtles across national frontiers in the decades ahead.” This statement is nothing closer to the truth. It is very obvious to see how without the global mindset your business will not function in today’s market. Michael Hick also has this to say about how he feels about the global economy, “Your people need to have awareness of Global issues to understand the events which will affect them and their families in the future. The Global Age is here. We are all linked now. Business is going global at break-neck speed and suddenly our lives, attitudes, belief systems and jobs depend on our having ‘Global Mindset’.” We definitely agree with Michael Hick on this topic and see the world market growing at an exponential rate.
Expanding your global mindset will at the same time give you effective cross cultural communication skills. Not all cultures have the same meanings for all the words that are in the English language. Moreover, the United States is a low-context culture and communication tactics can vary tremendously from a high-context culture such as Japan (Deresky). The difference between high-context and low-context cultures is that in a low-context culture words are used to explain, however in a high-context culture the explanation of many things are left up to body language and what the sender thinks the receiver will think. This concept goes hand in hand with uncertainty avoidance. In the United States w/ have a high uncertainty-avoidance (Deresky). This means that we like to know all there is to know about certain things such as a business contract. Germany is like this also, however, many Middle Eastern countries have a low uncertainty-avoidance (Adler 56). This means that they don’t need everything written on paper and many agreements may be verbal. Just having a minor grasp on these concepts, such as you would pick up from this class, gives you a much bigger global mindset. “Employee communication is becoming increasingly important to global corporations in their quest for efficiency and effectiveness. But it is proving ever more difficult as they grow and change shape. Companies face a number of deeper issues in deciding how best to communicate with staff across borders and at different levels (Kessler 1).
The fact that you may possess some of this global knowledge can make you a more marketable person. After all that should be one of your main goals; to make yourself as marketable as possible. By this we mean as stated above, if you were going to a business negotiation in Saudi Arabia and you showed up with ten pages of your policy, you may look foolish. That could be the worst possible thing to have happen. However, if you know that in Middle Eastern culture, many policies are unwritten, you could show up to the negotiation with all of the information in your head and greatly impress your soon to be business partners. You need this global mindset to keep yourself “one up” on everyone else.
Although it may be true that the United States dominates, the global business society, it is a very poor practice to have the attitude, “that I’m an American and they’ll do business my way and in my language.” To think like this is using a closed minded, ethnocentric approach to business. Although your partners might very well be prepared to work under American terms, the globally minded person would say to himself, “I know that they will probably be prepared to do business American style, however, I am going to present myself with the best combination of both styles, in a culturally synergistic fashion, and that might impress them.”
There are very little standardized methods of using the global mindset, because it is a relatively new field. Moreover, it is growing tremendously and tactics change ever so quickly. It is good though that some people are coming up with new ideas. According to a student at DePaul University who studies international business, a global mindset has levers:
· Boards must be a mix of nationalities
· Members must have two or more language skills
· There must be cross-boarder business teams
· Reward international experience
· Optimize local and foreign performance
· Develop global marketing managers
The items stated here are very precise, however, items like these are almost never expected from entry-level business employees. It is good to take a look at because it can show what a corporate international management team might have on its skills list. Company like, IBM, Microsoft, and Xerox have international management and marketing teams with skills like these listed above or even more advanced.
We have discussed in detail the reasons why it is important to have a global mindset, but there are those out there who fear the globalization of the United States. Also there are those that think many will get hurt in this globalization process. In the book Global Village or Global Pillage, it is discussed in depth that the globalization of the world will leave those who are poor and suffering right now, even poorer and more suffering as the globalization grows (Bretcher and Costello, 142). This goes along with the Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest. It seems easy to talk about this when you are discussing animals, but it is a lot tougher to rational when human lives come in to play.
In another book, American Patriotism in a Global Society, we see examples of how many Americans want just America to be on the top pillar of the global network. This book argues that the transformation of our world into a global society is causing a resurgence of tribalism at the same time that it is inspiring the ideology of political holism – the under-minding of human society as an evolving global system of interdependent individuals, cultures, and nations (Craige 5). To simplify this books main idea is to say that there is an underlying battle going on between not necessarily the nations to be the best, but inside the individuals, most of whom have tribalistic instincts. It is hard to do things and participate in things that you don’t feel accustomed to which drives us into the conclusion of this paper.
Those who want to succeed in today’s global society, yes, have to have a global mindset, but it is much bigger than that. One must excel in what he or she does and give one hundred and ten percent effort all of the time. Of course, some people get lucky and get jobs handed to them, but for the vast majority of us it is a race. One race to the end of the path that we decide to take. Not everyone wins that race, and maybe that is not important. In today’s globalizing society it is hard to feel like you are even part of the race. You may feel like you are doing well and then someone runs right past you and you don’t even know what happened. We can’t control the rate at which the global society is growing at and we wish we could say that everything and everyone will turn out a winner or at least happy. Yet this is untrue.