Management Matters: All Together Now

The topic of my talk was "Understanding the New Business World of the 21st Century." The venue: the Scandinavian Tourism and Travel show in Goteborg, Sweden. In the audience were delegates from 25 different countries.

The diversity in that one room alone got me to thinking: Like it or not, we all are part of a global community. Our businesses probably have offices in different countries, our customers might be international, suppliers are probably off shore and certainly some of our employees are from abroad. Indeed, we cannot escape it—the world is shrinking and businesspeople are right in the big middle of the consolidation.

This is a very good thing. It brings us into contact with the incredibly complex mosaic called humankind. It expands the viewpoints available to help us survive and thrive in different situations. And it increases the size of the sandbox each and every businessperson can play in. What could be wrong with this kind of development?

Truth be told, not much. Yet for some, more globalization is threatening. For them open markets, off shoring, and cultural diversity are not such good things. Bringing more (and different) people into the mix somehow dilutes the quality of the product. And destabilizes the world order. Nicolas Chauvin (father of this excessive nationalistic fervor) would have been proud to be numbered in this group.

But here's my take. This move towards greater connectivity in business is inevitable. And because it is so pervasive, we need to rethink some of our most cherished myths about boundaries.

For example, we all were impressed with the stunning view of the earth provided for us by the Apollo missions of the '70s. That fabled picture of our "Blue Marble" gave us a perspective that we never had before. From this view point (Millennials can go on the web to view it), it's easy to see that we are one human race, inhabiting one magnificent planet.

But what about the more pedestrian perspectives we wake up with every day? They are much more local ... and comfortable. Good, let's enjoy our home turf. But be careful here. A local perspective only lets you see local things. It automatically filters out anything or anyone beyond this horizon. In fact it makes it very easy to divide things up into "us" vs. "them." This is the mental duality that is getting in the way of a more reasoned migration to globalization.

We must remember that boundaries are artificial; they are socially constructed things. We have drawn them up because we needed to manage things. They are not "out there." They are administrative realities which exist in our minds only.

The problem is that we've forgotten we've done this. And that we can just as well redo or undo them, if the environment we live in has changed. And it has—big time. Inevitably, as more information flows ever faster around the world, it becomes harder to support these artificial boundaries. I believe in using Occam's razor to start paring them down. For me, fewer is always better.

To do well in the future, we need a wider view of things, one that embraces globalization as our new default position. I, for one, am very happy that in my audience that day in Sweden was the Mayor of Omaruru, a small town in Namibia. I had no idea where on Earth that was. So when I returned home, I looked it up on Google. And now I'm proud to say that, with an e-mail or two, my family just got a little bit more global. And I am enriched because of it.

Dr. Tom McDonald, a Ph.D. in psychology, speaks on "People Skills" needed for "Business Results." Reach him in San Diego at (858) 523-0883, [email protected], or visit

Originally published May 01, 2008

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