Magazine article Training & Development

Global Mindsets for Global Managers

Magazine article Training & Development

Global Mindsets for Global Managers

Article excerpt


There is a great deal of discussion these days about global mindsets. The general feeling is that a global mindset is something a global manager must have, and that it represents a certain curiosity about the world and a willingness to deal with broad global and foreign issues. But few attempts have been made to define what a global mindset is and what a manager with a global mindset might look like.

Glen Fisher describes mindsets as "differing ways that the subject at hand is perceived, understood, and reasoned about." (Mindsets: The Role of Culture and Perception in International Relations; New York: John Wiley, 1988).

That is similar to what Joel Barker calls a "paradigm" in Discovering the Future: The Business of Paradigms (St. Paul, MN: ILI Press, 1989). He defines a paradigm as a "set of rules and regulations that...establishes or defines boundaries and...tells you how to behave inside the boundaries in order to be successful."

For our purposes, we will define a mindset as a predisposition to see the world in a particular way that sets boundaries and provides explanations for why things are the way they are, while at the same time establishing guidance for ways in which we should behave. In other words, a mindset is a filter through which we look at the world.

A mindset is a way of being, not a set of skills. It is an orientation to the world that allows you to see certain things that others do not see. A "global" mindset means that we scan the world from a broad perspective, always looking for unexpected trends and opportunities to achieve our personal, professional, or organizational objectives.

Warren Bennis differentiates between managers and leaders in an article in the May 1990 issue of Training. In "Leadership in the 21st Century," he captures many of the mindsets necessary to be effective globally. His list includes the following, among others:

* The manager administers; the leader innovates.

* The manager focuses on systems and structures; the leader focuses on people.

* The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.

* The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.

* The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

* The manager does things right; the leader does the right things.

Six approaches

In 25 years of management and research in this area, I have found that people with global mindsets tend to approach the world in six specific ways:

People with global mindsets drive for the bigger, broader picture. People with global mindsets are constantly looking for context. They are concerned about the backdrop against which current events are happening. This backdrop may be historical, but it is more likely to be concerned with current and future trends on a broad, global basis.

A global mind is never content with one explanation of an event, never satisfied with one task when it can manage a project, and never happy with a project when it can manage an organization. Likewise, people with global mindsets are constantly scanning the geographical horizon to learn more about potential markets and competitors, new technology, and new suppliers.

It should be noted that there is also a great need today for managers with global mindsets in "domestic" organizations. Many people will argue that there is no longer any such thing as a "domestic organization" of any consequence, because if your organization is successful domestically, there is an increasing possibility that a foreign competitor will enter your market to challenge your position.

Many organizations that market to domestic customers are also finding a need to be more globally oriented in order to find global sources for materials, technology, capital, and even people, to help them provide the best product at the highest quality and lowest cost. …

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