Why we should all think global and act local

Burbank, California; November 7, 2002;
Joan Marques, MBA, Doctoral Student
(URL: http://www.joanmarques.com)

You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you. ~ James Allen

What do all successful multinationals, franchises, and other global operating organizations have in common? Right! The successful application of the "thinking global, but acting local" theory. And even without further analyzing this magnificent statement, we can taste its logic and power. "Thinking global, acting local" entails observing what's going on in the world, and making sure you fit in. McDonald's, for instance, is doing this by applying flexibility in its menu depending on the country it operates in. In India the burgers are prepared in curry, and in France the list of beverages is replenished with beer. And Coca Cola has added a popular tea to its product line in Japan.


But thinking global and acting local is not just an advice that should work for corporations: it should be applied by every human being who wants to maintain an existence in the constant evolving work environment of today. So, how would that work?


Thinking global--in case of an individual--could involve being aware of what's going on in the world; staying informed about the latest developments inside and outside your area of expertise-- not only within the geographical environments you operate in, but also in the ones that may currently still seem far from your bed. Thinking global also means, tracing all possible "markets" (read: workplaces) that could potentially be interested in your product, and looking for ways to enter them.

One of the many other things that thinking global necessitates, for organizations as well as individuals, is an amplified understanding and appreciation of diversity due to the increased intertwining of all global cultures as a result of the ever-advancing technology and ever-increasing migration in the world. It's a fact: our societies are becoming more diverse, and so are our colleagues, customers, supervisors and neighbors. Early acceptance of this trend will reward us with the competitive advantage of becoming first movers in the profitable use of diversity.


For an individual, "acting local" involves identification with every environment that you plan to make a living in. Without the will to adapt to- and accept local circumstances, success will be hard to achieve.


And why does this principle make sense for you as a manager, entrepreneur, employee, homemaker or student? The key is your mindset! Start realizing that you're in sales! You are selling yourself every minute of every hour of every day. And--like a business--your product may become obsolete in one market (e.g., your current job), but still be highly valued in another. Fortunately for you, here's where your global outlook proves its use: you were warned long before you became obsolete that there was a change emerging in the "market" you’re currently operating in. You heard it from your diverse group of friends, neighbors, colleagues and fellow workers, through the advanced technological devices you wisely made yourself familiar with! You have therefore been able to adjust your skills to the new demands and are consequently capable to serve this evolved market with your improved or adjusted skill-set. At the same time you are also able to apply your previous product (the "obsolete" skill) to newly acquired environments.


Considering the abovementioned strategy, it is fairly easy to conclude that human beings are not all that different from organizations in the way they should be managed. Just get yourself familiar with the theory that made Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Johnson & Johnson the powerful giants they are today. You may not necessarily want to aim for billions, but who's got something against a comfortable life and a well-spread sandwich? Think global and act local: look around, learn, and adapt. It's the only way to prevent yourself from losing track.