Five Friday Highlights: Traditions and Stereotypes

Global Stereotypes

Our world changes rapidly. Despite these accelerated changes, some deep-rooted global stereotypes persist as society evolves around them. Such is the case in this week’s selections. Venezuela and Brazil struggle to find lost power while stereotypes remain entrenched in Africa and Japan. Finally, a look at the world’s cities with the best work-life balance.

Venezuela Burning by Danielle DiMartino Booth explores the history behind Venezuela’s current crisis state. She asks, “How has Venezuela spiraled so far out of control in the wake of the commodities supercycle that built modern-day China, one that filled the coffers of resource-rich exporters worldwide?”

Challenging Africa’s Albino Stereotypes from the BBC explained the obstacles to acceptance people with albinism face in Africa. One woman (Celestine Mutinda) said, “Some of us are scared of walking along the streets of Nairobi. Sometimes while walking some people do say ‘this is money’. They believe that albinos can be sold. Some albinos end up isolating themselves because of discrimination.”

Adult Adoption in Japan from The Economist explains mukoyōshi, a practice almost unknown outside of Japan. This practice is one in which grown men are adopted by the families of the women they marry. This keeps the family line from ending and therefore prolongs their place in the business world. Read this fascinating article to learn about the 90% of adoptees in Japan: adults.

Finally, let’s learn about The 13 Cities With the Best Work-Life Balance in the World from Business Insider. Want to know which cities have the best balance between work and leisure time? Then this is the article for you! You’ll need to read it yourself to find out who is number one, but I’ll give you one hint: if you want great work-life balance, you’d better like Europe!

Have you read something this week that gave you a new perspective on another country? Email me to let me know!

Image Credit: 123rf/everythingpossible

Five Friday Highlights: Olympics, Flags, and More

Global Highlights

This week’s compilation includes many themes and extends to widespread countries. Spanning the grandeur and scale of the Olympics in Brazil, to the difficult lives of those with mental health issues in Indonesia. As is the case with our world, both the grand and the destitute co-exist. I hope you leave your experience of these five pieces having learned something new about our world.

In a nod to tradition, New Zealanders voted, in a recent referendum, to keep their current flag design. The details are spelled out in New Zealand Votes to Keep Flag in Referendum in the BBC News. The proposed replacement would have eliminated the Union Jack, a reminder of the time when New Zealand was a British colony.

Is “born global” the new “born digital”? In The Best Entrepreneurs Think Globally, Not Just Digitally, Michael Schrage in the Harvard Business Review explains how global approaches are increasingly incorporated into businesses from the very beginning. He says innovators and their investors are afraid they will be starting off behind if they “don’t go global from the beginning.” Their concerns are justified; you can’t tack on a global approach as an afterthought.

Mental health considerations and accommodations vary drastically around the world. This candid and difficult look at mental health in Indonesia from CNN explained how pasung, “the practice of confining or restraining relatives with mental health problems — was banned in Indonesia in 1977 but remains startlingly common.” Although our mental health system here in the United States is hardly perfect, the contrast is startling.

As someone who works with organizations to help them manage expansions involving global teams, I see so much opportunity to get it right in situations like Hotset’s. In its press release, Hotset shared the success of bilateral teamwork among its German headquarters and its subsidiaries in America, China, Singapore, Malta and India.

Are you excited about the Summer Olympics in Brazil? In Road to Rio: Brazil Olympics Sees Low Ticket Sales Amid Economic Downturn And Political Scandals, Lydia Tomkiw of the International Business Times covers several fascinating angles of the upcoming games. For the purpose of this compilation, it bears pointing out the intercultural assumptions made by speakers like International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who reacted to slower-than-expected domestic ticket sales by saying, “Brazilians, they do not buy tickets at such an early stage, as the British or the Germans. There is no concern at all,” at a press conference in early March (as reported by the Associated Press).

Have you read a post or seen a video this week that has helped you have a deeper understanding of a different country or culture? Please e-mail me to let me know; I’d love to see it!

Setting Global Management Priorities in a Shifting Business World

Working globally in business today means more than travelling to an executive meeting in another country. It’s a broad-ranging pursuit that requires a deeper understanding of the contexts in which we work. International business trips not only foster exposure to other cultures and perspectives in your own dealings, but also assist in creating a more worldly approach to every level of a company. For leaders seeking a more global perspective, and wanting to develop global mindset in their teams, here are three ways to set global management priorities:

Look for quality over cost:

In my work with management teams of large international brands, I’m seeing a trend away from seeking labor that is most notable for its low cost. Companies now are more interested in the quality of the work. They’re looking for a more sophisticated ROI, which means skill level, language aptitude and time zone accessibility all rank higher on the list now, too. Cost, which was once the only question asked when looking to outsource or expand, has been pushed farther down. This trend has caused an increase in near-shoring, or companies looking to countries in their same (or closer to their same) time zone, for labor. It has also allowed high-skill workforce areas such as China and India to remain in the conversation, even as the cost of labor in those countries increases. Work ethic, cultural values and timeliness are now of greater importance to global managers than simply selecting the cheapest possible option.

Think beyond the BRIC countries:

In countries with a strong reputation for skilled labor and an ascending economy it’s now more competitive to recruit than it was when these countries were less developed. It’s also the case that BRIC countries come with their own set of challenges that foreign investors have a difficult time overcoming. Brazil’s government stronghold makes business dealings complex, China and the Chinese culture is still a mystery for many American and European firms, India’s infrastructure is difficult to navigate and the political relationship Russia has with other countries is mucking up potentially successful joint venture negotiations.

This isn’t to say BRIC countries aren’t still important markets for foreign business development, there is lots of opportunity.  But it does mean that BRIC countries are no longer as easy to penetrate as we once thought they were. Managers and companies who are looking for the next frontier of a strong labor market might look a bit farther off the traditional map: Indonesia, Chile and Ghana are all labor markets poised to take very well to outside investment. Just this week, a Chinese business group announced it is investing $2B into building an industrial park in the town of Shama on Ghana’s coast. In a few years, business investors will be looking at a whole new acronym for key international investment. Smart managers can take advantage of the upcoming shift by investing now in South East Asia, West Africa, South America and other burgeoning economies.

Renew your investment in management training:

With the rise of virtual workplaces, there was a shift away from formal management training. But company leaders have found that there has been a management and leadership deficit. In John Kotter’s recent blog, Management is (Still) Not Leadership, he points out that managers are less skilled today and individuals don’t necessarily know how and when to lead.  Today, companies are reprioritizing training teams to work more effectively, especially in virtual environments. Companies are now investing more time, money and importance in training global teams and managers are seeing the need to invest in programs so employees are well equipped to lead in global context.

The productivity and retention of employees, especially in a global team that doesn’t work in the same office, can be greatly increased by investing in training on how to effectively manage global projects and dispersed teams. Along with management training, performance management is becoming a critical issue as companies have more employees in more places. How companies assess and develop managers is becoming a critical point of investment and attention, as there is a focus on business growth and demonstrating ROI. This rapid growth makes training vital, both for internal employees moving up in the business and new employees coming in. Formal learning programs in both team and personal management skills will deliver a huge return on investment, especially in global company that is growing rapidly.

By focusing on these three management priorities, companies will set a globally-minded intention at the top and business will see efficient, more productive work from existing employees. In a growing business it’s better to make one smart, considered decision than to make two quick, wrong choices. That’s why I encourage managers to look beyond bottom line in outsourcing labor, to think beyond the common and increasingly popular BRIC countries, and to maintain a commitment to training employees in a continued, deliberate way.