The world is getting smaller every day. Is your company prepared?
America recently withstood a series of major hurricanes and now the long process of disaster recovery begins. What’s missing from most of the reporting, though, is the global nature of these phenomena. The hurricanes themselves formed off the coast of Africa and traveled across the Atlantic. They battered smaller Caribbean island nations before hitting the U.S.. Foreign and domestic supply chains were disrupted. During Harvey, the flood waters inundated oil refineries outside of Houston, impacting gas prices in the U.S. and abroad. While political rhetoric in the U.S. is increasingly insular, it is actually more important than ever for businesses to think globally. Here are three reasons why.
Complexity knows no borders.
The set of challenges we face – pandemic diseases, climate and environmental issues, transit and tourism, migration and refugees – are global in nature, but their impact is acute in local communities. Modeling containment protocols and strengthening health systems in developing countries helps control dangerous outbreaks, like Zika and Ebola. Shale gas in Canada affects the price of coal in India. American and Canadian tourists have helped increase the GDP of developing countries like Belize. Humanitarian crises in Syria can affect social services in Belgium. Businesses who ignore the global complexity affecting their enterprises at the local level do so at their peril.
Digital transformation runs the world.
We are more connected than ever before. The distinction between online and traditional communication is all but dead. We are all members of networked communities, with both digital and real-world presences. The companies that are more nimble and can harness that technology are the ones that will bring value for shareholders, customers, and citizens of all kinds. Global supply chains and complex logistics networks, fueled by digital connectivity, ensure that products get from the factory floor in China to U.S. customers’ doors in a matter of days. Citizens are demanding the same responsiveness from their governments for public services, no matter where in the world they are located.
Innovation doesn’t need a passport.
In this hyper-connected, complex world, ideas travel at the speed of light and innovations can come from anywhere. Mobile banking in Kenya, India, and the Philippines can offer incredible insights and lessons for the 60 million people in the U.S. who don’t use traditional banks. Airports and airlines around the world learn from online retailers to make their experience more passenger-friendly. Even within the ICF family, we’re sharing ideas across borders, industries, and disciplines to make big things possible. Amit Khare, who started his career in our India office, recently traveled to Africa to work with partners to introduce energy-efficient building practices to Tanzania. After starting her career in the DC area, Joy Kamunyori now supports health system strengthening out of our office in Pretoria, South Africa.
Here are a couple of things your company can do to be sure that you bring a global mindset to your enterprise:
- Join an organization. There are any number of business groups that offer a global perspective. For example, there is a World Affairs Council in just about every city in America. They are non-partisan councils that are dedicated to educating, inspiring and engaging Americans in international affairs and the critical global issues of our times. More broadly, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition includes over 500 businesses and policy leaders working across all fifty states to encourage the U.S. government to support strategic investments and policies to build a better, safer world.
- Seek out talent that has global experience and languages. Study after study shows that bilingual people have a high degree of empathy and make great lateral thinkers, 21st century skills no matter where you happen to be working. Also consider hiring one of the over 6,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Per this blog post, they understand ambiguity and “MacGyvering” creative solutions.
- Stay on top of the issues. You don’t have to leave home to join the global conversation. An increasing number of media outlets bridge the local and the global. For example, NPR’s new podcast, Rough Translation, provides global perspectives on our national conversations. Harvard Business Review offers a special section dedicated to international business best practices, too.