Did We Say “Global Mindset”?
While the idea of the world being a “global village” is now a given people – especially young people – still tend to be unaware of their bigger surroundings and trends. Often, they adopt a rather passive, self-centered or even contrarian stance towards their role in the society they are living in.
Today’s global village, with its ease of telecommunications, differs greatly from that which emerged during what Thomas Friedman described as Globalisation 1.0, the period when empires both ancient and modern ruled over vast regions and diverse cultures. It is also different from Friedman’s Globalisation 2.0, the era of international corporations dominating international trade. In today’s Globalisation 3.0 era, as Friedman notes in his 2005 bestseller The World is Flat, the centre of interest and influence has shifted from nations to multinational corporations (MNCs), and from MNCs to individuals.
The individual is now at the centre of a system that is far more influenced by international economic, political and societal happenings. The old order in international relations is being challenged as individuals around the world join hands in collective action aimed at changing “the rules”, such as with the Arab Spring uprising and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
These changes are being driven both by the natural evolution of human society as well as by dissatisfaction with the prevailing socio-economical system. They place individuals at the centre of an interdependent but not always inter-related system in which the individual is gaining more power and influence vis-a-vis nations and MNCs.
We need to be able to cope with the changing dynamics of these new interactions. This requires, on the one hand, a sound understanding of social transformations brought about by technology and, on the other, a complete shift of mindset so we may integrate with and respond to global societal forces.
Given that such a shift is no longer a luxury but a necessity how globally exposed are we as individuals? A survey recently commissioned by an MNC office in Hong Kong to assess patterns of “global mindedness” among university students, suggests that they are lagging behind what might have reasonably been expected in a multicultural, multidimensional and economically diverse society like Hong Kong. According to the survey, 50 per cent considered themselves to be doing “fairly well” in integrating with people and ideas from different cultures; on the other hand, only 45 per cent said they were constantly increasing their awareness of other cultures. In other words, it appears that a global mindset that is aware and open to cultural and economic diversities across the globe is still quite far from mental reach for young people, even in one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities.
It is clear that in the global village we now inhabit, national boundaries are increasingly irrelevant. With the revolution in communication technologies, we see the expansion of economic communities, the further liberalisation of markets and deeper integration of national economies into international market economies – all creating new opportunities for international business. The ability to tap into these opportunities requires a brand new set of structures, infrastructures, skills and competences. But, more importantly, it requires a new set of thoughts, behaviours and actions – in other words, a global mindset.
In both the marketplace and the workforce, a global mindset is increasingly valued. According to a 2006 US report on studying abroad, about 30 per cent of large corporations feel they have failed fully to capitalise on their international business opportunities because they do not have enough personnel with international skills. Given that global economic exchanges have hugely increased since then, it can only be assumed that the need for such international skills in the workplace has intensified. Similarly, according to the same 2006 report, 80 per cent of corporations would have expected a rise in sales if they had more internationally-competent personnel.
While the importance of a global mindset is usually discussed more in relation to how it can help integrate diverse societies and foster global understanding, it can therefore be seen as a business or career opportunity, and a means of fostering entrepreneurship through innovation and creativity.
Being “global minded” is, in fact, a key facet of successful entrepreneurship. It starts with being aware of global trends: What is changing? Where and why is the change happening? And how can I capitalise on it? It goes beyond being aware, to recognizing, acknowledging and integrating global diversities into a conscious framework. It is about harnessing critical thinking and an ability to see things in an open-minded way to an ability to apply reasoning and logic to unfamiliar ideas, opinions, and situations. This important skill allows people to look past their own views of the world and to adopt a more expansive and aware way of viewing the world.
In short, “global mindset” is a state of mind and set of behaviours engaged in constant and active investigation of new trends and the unknown. We no longer need to travel the world to understand what is going on and to capitalize on trends. From the comfort of our homes, schools, work places and PCs, we can become the global citizens that the world is demanding. The fastest way to do it is through wise, smart use of the tools that technology has given us: Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and, in China, the micro-blogging site Weibo, just to cite a few.
Bio Note : Gildas Yombi, originally from Cameroon, in west Central Africa, is corporate relations and business development director at AIESEC Hong Kong, part of a non-profit global organisation of students and young leaders headquartered in the Netherlands. He received his Master's degree in Economic Sociology from the University of Douala and undergraduate degree in Political Sciences from the University of Buea, both in Cameroon.