As 2018 comes to an end, we all start thinking about what the coming year is going to bring us, all looking at it through our individual lenses. Here’s my lens: I am someone who prepares and supports people to develop a global mindset, so they can work more effectively in cross-cultural settings—i.e., the global arena.
We’re all familiar with the social and economic turmoil going on in the world as 2018 ends. While Paris isn’t fully burning, flames still linger. Even though there’s a “trade truce” with China, the “tariff war” is far from averted. Brexit is nowhere near settled. As a matter of fact, the looming Brexit deadline makes the situation in Europe more confusing than ever.
Beyond that, there is strife in the Middle East and Africa, and turmoil in oil markets, all of which ripples throughout the global economy. Then there’s the world’s biggest economy—the US—which has seen stock markets fall dramatically in the past few weeks even while its economy continues to set new records. And the trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico still needs legislative approval from a new US Congress.
Further roiling these troubled waters is the unpredictable impact of growing nationalism coupled with the enormous challenges of global migration. We still don’t know the full impact of the migrations from Africa and the Middle East throughout Europe. Nor can we adequately predict the further migrations from Latin America to North America.
So, What CAN We Say About 2019?
We know that one way or another the tariff wars and Brexit will get settled. We know that technology will continue to network the world and its people with ever-faster connectivity, creating ever-greater bonds between and among culturally different populations.
Regardless of what happens with Chinese tariffs, the Western influences in China will continue. The world will still buy products manufactured in China, and Western and Chinese businesses will continue to integrate and collaborate in global teams. Regardless of how Brexit sorts itself out, the simple truth is that the flow of information and people will continue between the UK and Europe; products and components of products will continue to be assembled in both places, and the global mindset skills required to have effective collaborative interactions will continue rising in importance. The desire for global products will not diminish and the information flow between countries will continue, regardless of the geopolitical situation.
This reminds me of the old adage—once you’ve scrambled the eggs, you cannot unscramble them. Since that is obviously true, the companies that are able to maximize talent and human contribution will be the ones that succeed.
How a Global Mindset Fits Into This
If I had to pick the one most important skill that global businesspeople will need to navigate successfully through these troubled times, I would say it’s a global mindset—the ability to work effectively and constructively with all people, and to recognize human competence regardless of how different it may be from your own. If you have a global mindset, you have the ability to create an inclusive workplace, whether its with people sitting next to you or with a global virtual team that includes members sitting halfway around the world.
Global mindset skills, while important now, will become the single most critical non-technical intercultural competency that all of us will need. This is because all the tumult and challenges the world faces cannot reverse the immutable force of global integration.
For years, we’ve talked about the importance of intercultural skills—being able to understand and collaborate across cultures—and how they are key components of global business and successful interactions in the global economy. Building upon this—and accepting the notion that intercultural competency is a foundation for workplace success—we evolve to recognizing that the workplace must accommodate different people and different ways of thinking.
Enter the idea of the Inclusive Workplace.
Research supports the notion that inclusive workplaces are more efficient and more productive, and that organizations which are successful at inclusion are more profitable and have a larger percentage of engaged employees than those that are not. The transition from a global mindset (that recognizes and capitalizes on cultural differences) to an inclusive workplace is seamless; an inclusive workplace is simply the group reflection of people with a global mindset. The two are inextricably interrelated.
Having a global mindset helps an individual to recognize behaviors and values different from their own, and to adjust their own style to interact effectively with others. An inclusive workplace is one where all people feel a sense of “belonging.” They feel they are part of the team; they are comfortable bringing their values, ideas and enthusiasm to work because the workplace values them and their unique perspectives.
However, as natural and connected as a global mindset is to an inclusive workplace, neither can come into being without conscious effort and support.
The key to understanding yourself culturally (and the first step to achieving a global mindset) is to recognize your own behaviors and preferences. This is the same foundation you need to start creating an inclusive workplace environment: recognition of who youare, and of other people’s different and uniquely talents.
So, my suggestion for 2019 is to stop worrying about the state of the world and start focusing on our own workplaces. By embracing a global mindset, we’re better able to understand others’ points of view and work collaboratively toward more productive global business environments that are happier, more profitable places to work.