I was recently listening to Sam Harris’ “Making Sense” podcast where he interviewed General Stanley McChrystal, a retired four-star general in the US Army with more than 34 years of service. General McChrystal talked about how quickly society can break apart when we adopt a narrowly defined local mindset and fail to understand the global systems our organizations, governments and societies have created and depend on for survival. Many of us continue to participate in this system, albeit remotely. What we are now experiencing, as of April 2020, is a great social experiment for those who have to figure out how to transition to a workplace that can no longer occupy a real-world office or the many other workplaces that are now off limits.
General McChrystal went on to say, “The more you break things apart, the less this globalized system we’ve created works. A lot of people aren’t fully appreciating the fact that so many things are not built…in their country. It’s in our interest for the global structure to be healthy and to work, and it could be to our demise if it doesn’t.”
Those of us who work for global organizations and multinational corporations in the global economy know well that decentralized organizational structures and distributed teams have been the norm for some time. They have been an important boon in terms of attracting more diverse human capital, developing more relevant products and services, inspiring greater team innovation, expanding market access and encouraging overall growth. Many of the reasons why our organizations have responded to the imperative to be global is underwritten by a desire to create prosperity for people globally, and to support our diverse societies and economies with useful services and products that resonate locally and globally.
However, what we may risk losing during a pandemic is the social cohesion that aids in our effort to unite, align and survive through change. Without a mindset to help us work with people around the world, what we may see in the near future is a balkanization of our organizations and societies that are no longer cohesive.
General McChrystal urges that, “We need to spend time educating people on having a more global [worldview]”. What he implies is that many of us need to develop skills and widen our knowledge base in order to connect, relate and collaborate with people who are diverse, near and far. One can only think about the fact that much of the world’s personal protective equipment (PPE, e.g. protective masks) are produced in countries like China, but in desperate need in a majority of countries around the globe.
On an individual level, we all need global skills in order to sustain not only the positive aspects of our global organizations, but the larger global economy that we need to stay online. Global skills, competencies and traits might include any of the following:
- A global mindset
- A growth mindset
- Inclusive management and leadership tactics
- Resilience and coping mechanisms
- Curiosity and humility
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Cultural awareness and cross-cultural competencies
- Leveraging diversity as a strength
- The ability to build trust and work effectively across human differences
We have time now to introspect and look within for our own solutions to best adjust and adapt to the “new normal”, however it may look for you in your role, in your company and in your industry. Here are a few questions for you to consider:
- How mindful are you of the global systems or processes relevant to your work? Why do they exist? How do they work?
- How prepared are you to work effectively in a global environment? Which global skills can you develop?
- How do you think the global systems and networks we’ve developed might/can change in order to mitigate the impact of future pandemics?
- In which direction will your industry pivot in order to survive? Will your industry become more or less global as a result of this and other pandemics that may occur in the future?
- Beyond stabilizing our businesses during this next quarter of 2020, how do we create the organizations of the future that can survive pandemics?
If you’d like to listen to the specific podcast I’ve referenced above, you can find it here: “Social Cohesion is Everything”. You can listen to General McChrystal’s comments on developing a more global mindset from 51:30 onward.
CultureWizard’s learning resources are designed to help you build the global skills to thrive in a diverse, global work environment. Let us know how we can help by contacting us below.