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“Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies[i] and requirements.” 

– Persian Holy Man, 19th century

Keeping the Balance in Increased Complexity

To what extent are you reimagining the role you can uniquely play within the modern day of our evolving world? In recent decades, the push of globalization has pulled you from the familiarity of your hometown and into a global work environment where both your career and world financial markets have been born and reborn. As de-globalization becomes the new push, what competencies will you draw from your repertoire to meet the current needs of nations who seem to have reversed their interest in distant regions and diverse races? How you apply your skill sets may make the difference between your own survival, and that of the enterprises in which you believe.

If you need a bit of convincing about globalism going in reverse, think “Brexit” 2016 [ii] (even in the wave of 2017 “Briturn” sentiment); think the U.S. electorate’s current lean toward a nationalistic narrative that goes so far as to exclude the belief in full rights for all citizens; think Catalonia’s vote to split from Spain just this past month. The phenomenon has also been covered as a 2017 global trend[iii].

It’s time to actively consider how your global competencies are transferable to societies that are in the process of de-globalizing. If a global competence checklist were possible, it might look like the skills, knowledge and attitudes itemized below.

✔ Ability to interact respectfully, appropriately and effectively
✔ Empathy
✔ Flexibility
✔ Knowledge and understanding of global issues
✔ Intercultural knowledge and understanding
✔ Responsibility

At intercultures, we call it global skills. In a brochure describing OECD’s [iv] proposal for the PISA[v] 2018 Global Competence assessment, global competence is defined as, “the capacity to analyze global and intercultural issues critically and from multiple perspectives…on the basis of a shared respect for human dignity.” However you define it, the competency set that facilitates your own and others’ openness to real and perceived differences represents a resolution for those who seek to essentially close themselves to “foreign” influence because they cannot imagine how else to protect their self-interest.

Here’s a creative brainstorm of a few basic ideas to respond to the de-globalizing mindset:

  • Listen to learn. An ethno-centric worldview can happen to anyone; it’s a mentality that does not discriminate between people considered highly intelligent and others who are considered to be poorly educated. How do you respond, for instance, when a bigoted minority of people use the logic of diversity and inclusion to gain a platform for their divisive ideas? When attempting to influence, speak with kindness and humility as if you are investigating the truth together. Learning the logic of others’ thinking is key to releasing its productive potential.
  • Influence how people imagine their community. While acknowledging the limitations of nationalism—certainly, “nationalism has never produced its own grand thinkers: no Hobbeses, Tocquevilles, Marxes, or Webers” [vi], as you may or may not recognize the value of these particular philosophies—author Benedict Anderson offers hope. In his book, Imagined Communities, Anderson defines nationalism as, “an imagined political community,” originally transmitted through the written word because “members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members”. Through strategic communications, nurture the narrative about what your community is—and what it is not.
  • Make space for first-person narratives of history. Wide-eyed interest in a background one feels they own can create the chance for you to introduce unexpected lessons that open their sense of “us” and “them”. Whether national or organizational history, make space for the voice of “minoritized” persons to share their experience in contributing to the whole. In truth, there are no “others”.

In short, it’s about innovation. In a 2-minute video trending in recent weeks, author and entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk, encouraged his LinkedIn network of 1.2 million followers to “innovate or die”. Here’s to vitality and continued relevance in the world as we come to know it!

We look forward to your contact!

The above article was included in our November 2017 Quarterly intercultures E-Newsletter.

[i] An exigency is a need or demand.
[ii] Brexit is the popular term for the anticipated split of the United Kingdom from the European Union. A June 2016 referendum resulted in a 51.9% vote by the UK electorate to leave the EU (Wikipedia).
[iii] Examples of such news coverage include articles posted by Morgan Stanley; Your Article Library; SustainAbility, and others.
[iv] OCED is the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.
[v] PICA is OCED’s anticipated Programme for International Student Assessment.
[vi] Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso: 1983, 1991.