Over the past twenty years, I’ve interacted with many different people in many different countries and if there’s one thing I’ve learned through all of this experience, it’s that the abilities required to do business globally are much greater than those needed to do business domestically. In fact, it really boils down to just one critical ability that not many people have. Now, I’m sure you’ve heard people emphasize the importance of business and language skills as well as the comprehension of various business practices, and while there is no doubt about their importance,flexibility in thinking is the most critical component to business success because every action we choose to take is heavily influenced by that very thinking.
What Abilities are Needed to do Business in the Global Era?
As a consultant who works globally, I am often asked about what it takes to do business in the“Global Era.” I find that the “Bicycle Model” makes it easiest for us to grasp all of the elements required to do business globally, including how each element interacts with each other. In the “Bicycle Model,” the front tire represents our universal business skills while the rear tire stands for our knowledge regarding global affairs and language skills.
Because of the way that the gears and pedals of business work, the front tire is propelled forward by the back tire’s motion, meaning our universal business skills will only go where our knowledge drives them. And lest we forget the rider, this represents the mindset, right down to the posture we take as we grasp hold of the handlebars and steer our course. And yet even if that bicycle has splendid front and rear tires, the rider cannot reach the final goal or destination effectively with a bad riding posture (both physically and mentally). This same phenomenon is taking place in global business day in and day out.
Corporations frantically train their employees to reinforce their front and rear tires, but that is not enough. Those who can do business globally and continue to grow have more than good tires – they have good riding posture and thus are able to have a perspective that allows them to see not only ahead to the future, but also to the sides and surrounding business environment. Anticipating the bumps coming up in the road ahead is just as important as knowing your surroundings and how to adapt to them when you’re on the global business bicycle, and that is all about your posture.
Getting in the Global Business Mindset
So, what is required for the proper “posture to ride a bicycle?” The ability to see, feel and think beyond one’s own experience, belief, and values as well as beyond the borders of conventional ideas. Although this can be logically understood on the surface, it is not easy to put into practice when you are actually out there working in the global environment. Why? Because our experiences, beliefs, values and views unconsciously form stereotypes, which strongly influence our actions and affect our final results. For this reason it is crucial to rid oneself of stereotypes and be flexible in both your thinking and actions.
To test if you are flexible in your thinking, ask yourself a simple question: When seeing a glass of water that is filled half way, do you perceive it as “half full” or “half empty?” While you’ve certainly heard of this question before and have probably answered it a thousand times, the stereotype that you’ve already formed about your answer is causing you to have a domestic business state of mind, not a global one. It is not a matter of good or bad, or being an optimistic or pessimistic person – the simple fact is that there is no right answer. Many people have a hard time wrapping their head around that fact and that is why so many fail on the global market
What’s important to take away here is that the flexibility to understand the tendency in one’s own thinking and to acquire and accept the opposite of that thinking is true is a skill that is critical to global business success. I call such flexibility in thinking and the ability to recognize different views and put them into action, “The Innovative Thinking Ability.” It is crucial to develop this unique ability if you want to be successful in the global business marketplace.