Expert Shares 7 Skills for Competing Globally
Are the young, multiplying countries of Africa the next frontier?
Which countries will be members of the EU in five years? Where is the
ground safe in the Middle East? What will happen if things go awry in
the South or East China Sea? Is Mexico going to replace Brazil as
Latin America’s superpower? Is the debt-soaked, trade-o-phobic United
States destined to be a country with meager growth, sidelined from the
global growth party?
These questions and others like them will keep many managers awake at
night as they contemplate how their businesses will survive and
succeed in the 21st century. Those managers will sleep much better if
they start now to build the global skills needed in the 21st
century.Here are seven skills that I believe will be essential.
1. Create strategies with a global context. These are the strategies
that can’t lose. In the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and
threat (SWOT) analysis, managers will have to discern between the
threats and the opportunities. For example, Africa is the last
continental frontier, but which of its countries will offer the best
opportunities? Answering that question will go beyond assessing
populations and demographics and into an analysis of workforce skills,
labor regulations, availability of credit and health care, and the
quality of the transportation infrastructure.
2. Know when affordability trumps innovation. The cardinal rule has
been to always focus on products with superior innovation versus
lowest price, because the former fetch a premium. That will no longer
be a slam dunk. In many countries, successful products will deliver
country-specific basic functions that are priced for the market. These
consumers don’t care about innovation; they care about basic,
3. Be more adept at building relationships than filing lawsuits.
Businesses need to lose the crutch of legal systems to ensure
contractual commitments are met.
Cross border litigation is always expensive and time consuming. Worse,
justice does not always prevail. Exchange the art of suing with the
art of building relationships because that’s how most of the world
outside the United States makes sure commitments are met.
4. Become fascinated with world events. The illusion that the world
rotates around the United States is just that – an illusion. What
happens in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Australia affects
5. Learn what motivates employees in different cultures. Motivating
employees will be key to the productivity gains necessary to compete
with rivals operating with lower costs. Managers will have to
understand how cultural programming affects employee motivation in the
nations where they’re operating, and how employees of modest means are
motivated differently from most Americans.
6. Embrace new bottom lines. Maximizing shareholder value has been an
American mantra. In other countries, businesses are expected to have
multiple bottom lines that take into consideration shareholders,
employees, the environment and the community. Managers in the 21st
century will need to become super motivators whodrive productivity and
innovation, create competitive products, and generate more sales and
increased profits. These will support higher wages, increased hiring,
and investments in clean technologies – in addition to shareholder
7. Maintain a strong moral compass. In many countries, the norm is
bribery, unsafe work practices, discrimination, and cutting corners on
quality. Managers must have – and be guided by — a strong moral
compass, understanding that integrity is never locally defined.This
will be essential to building trust and relationships, the business
“currency” in many countries.
These are exciting times. The most attractive opportunities for growth
are in the 162 countries of the world that are developing, or will be
soon. These countries are/will be building costly infrastructures and
institutions such as schools and banks, engaging in trade, creating
competitive businesses, and watching their middle classes — with all
their attendant purchasing needs – grow.
Who will be the winners in the competition for the best opportunities?
That’s easy. The companies who have managers skilled for the 21st