Are you a global asset?

Global experience is more important than education when it comes to succeeding in business, according to Anna Tavis, head of talent and development at Brown Brothers Harriman. If she is right, not only will the way global businesses are run change drastically, a different kind of people will be in charge. Devote 4 minutes to watching her explain her ideas to Harvard:

According to Anna Tavis, the requirements of today’s global market place has changed and the traditional success formula of education will no longer open up opportunities. It’s taken for granted that you are educated. But what else do you  have to offer?

Globalisation of talent

People looking for talent for global organisations are on the lookout for a different profile than in the past, she says and adds that they now recruit all over the world as opposed to only in the country their head office is located in. The same holds true for finding the next generation of leaders.

Will headhunters looking for global assets find you?

Will headhunters looking for global assets find you?

Head offices a thing of the past?

Speaking the local language and thoroughly understanding the culture of the market you work with is essential, if you wish to succeed in business around the world. And because of time differences the next generation of leaders will be spread around the world, as opposed to all working out of the head office.

This will initially put a lot of pressure on people in the head office. But there is no longer a need to have the entire top management in one location. We can work from anywhere in the world and provide the same kind of service, expertise and knowledge, with the added benefit of understanding the culture we work in, speak the language and  hence be better able to negotiate and succeed in business.

What do you think? Is she right that education is taken for granted and it’s your global experience that counts nowadays? Or do you believe it’s possible to understand how people on the other side of the world think, what drives and motivates them through education only? To what extent can you understand a culture you haven’t integrated in? Will having one head office gradually become a thing of the past? Is talent globalised? Will top management be spread around the world instead of in a head office? Are you better able to succeed in a country where you understand the culture? Or maybe you disagree with her and believe that the traditional reciepe for success i.e. education still holds? Or do you agree with her ideas and, if you are not already a global asset, will strive to become one?

Video: HarvardBusiness – You Tube

53 responses

  1. I think she is spot on. We have seen this correlation in the past with companies underestimating the importance of understanding another culture and their product fails. I think it's extremely important to have knowledge of other cultures and therefore the locals would be great assets. With technology today there really is no reason to have a 'head office' for the purposes it has held in the past. I think the only purpose now would be for establishment of the business itself, like for tax purposes and such. Having a business degree alone is not enough.
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  2. I believe a good education is and will continue to be a part of the equation. Taking it for granted could be a mistake. However, having a "main office" has already shifted to working remotely. That certainly requires a different skill-set then before.

    Understanding the economy and culture of the market you hope to gain market share is absolutely necessary. With the advent of working remotely, this then allows for specific talent to found/hired in the location that could offer the greatest benefit and opportunity for success.

    In conclusion the future is here. If you have the right education, cultural orientation and skill-set to work remotely you will not be wanting for opportunities.
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  3. I agree that there's no substitute for practical experience, and that having lived & worked in a given country/culture will always stand you in far better stead than somebody who has no experience of that country/culture.

    I also agree that multinationals will increasingly spread their head office functions around the globe – putting the people in the areas that make the most sense. So, one might find marketing's head office based in one country, manufacturing in another and finance in a third, for example.

  4. I think Anna is right in what she says that to have the edge you need more than just traditional education i. e. an MBA. My concern with globalisation which is already part if the world economy is pay scales. I question whether a similarly qualified person living in say India rather than the US will be given , or accept a lower rate of pay than US counterparts.
    This issue already ripped out manufacturing from both the US & UK so I fear for white collar jobs as well. That said there's no doubt that a person conversant with local culture with the same qualifications will be the better person for the job.
    How can the wealth be spread around without compromising jobs in the US is if the export of business is reciprocal. I question whether that is the case but ur better qualified than me to answer that Catarina.
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  5. Companies are already finding that well qualifies people are available at other part of the world and their services are cheaper than the developed nations because of the value differences in currencies. So, to help the developed countries to survive from the depression, the world may need to have a unified currency…
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  6. Education is important but experience and the ability to come up with new ways to do things is a universal language. Think Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who were Harvard drop-outs. Their ideas were more important than their education. Ideas can bloom anywhere, in any country. Yes, there are cultural differences to take into account, but how do you explain the 900 million people on Facebook. Community is the common denominator — the ability to connect with people you know and meet new people. The most important thing we need to be is adaptable because nothing stays the same.
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  7. We are certainly living in an increasingly competitive world, and as Anna states, one can't go in with just the education of an MBA. It's the other talents, skills, experiences and knowledge that one brings that will get the firm to be interested.

    Years ago I temped for Brown Brothers Harriman in Boston – I don't remember it at all being diverse! My main recollection was that everyone wore a conservative business suit.
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  8. Catarina, I do agree with Anna. There's really no substitute for experience. That doesn't mean that we should dismiss the value of continued education. It certainly has merits. I just believe that education can come from working along side people in different cultures. A combination of solid business and management skills coupled with real life experience can be invaluable skills for employees to expect from their employees.

  9. Catarina, I agree with Anna, Great topic I think education is the starting point… languages, worked and live in other continents is important to be a global asset!!!

  10. From the way how I understand her, I think it's more of whether completing a course in college is still necessary or not. We hear so many stories about dropouts succeeding. But if you look a little bit closer, they still spend some time studying and educating themselves. The same goes for with my career now as a web content writer servicing local and international clients. What I do now is a combination of what I learned in school (I graduated with a degree in Communications) and what I learned through experience, reading materials and videos I've watched.
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  11. I see her point everyday here in Los Angeles. More and more people that I encounter in business didn't even have a formal education, but they have life experience and speak multiple languages. It's amazing because here in America education is sold as a must-do in order to have a successful life, but more college graduates are out there without work than ever before.
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  12. She explains the new concept in only 4 minutes and has me convinced. The education is just a ticket to begin participating. Understanding and thereby not committing cultural gaffes is so important, I certainly believe that it is possible/desirable to be able to work anywhere in the world. We Americans tend to think that everyone should use English to communicate. This evolution is bound to change that mindset. I’m all for it. Diversity is a very good thing.

  13. This is really right on target. It’s comes to having that perfect combination of education, experience, and cultural orientation/skill set that enables remote working successfully. It’s already in play successfully – corporations have manufacturing separated form other functions everywhere. And distribution comes into play as well when companies ship products world-wide.
    Sometimes what we know as formal education can be almost discounted…Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg come to mind. But they aren’t the norm, after all.

  14. I agree Catarina. With a varied cultural foundation, corporations should have senior management not only located in the different regions but also from those areas. It makes sense that a local person should run, or make decisions for, the area to which they know best.
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  15. I think that education is important to a point and you really need what I call street smarts to survive today. With the birth of the cloud you are able to have your business partners have access to your data and then you can create an office chat to discuss. You are able communicate with your global partners without having to travel all over the past. The world is changing and if you want to survive in business you need to adapt. I agree with Ann Travis
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  16. I find the globalization of business tremendously interesting, even though it will no longer impact me, but definitely will impact our grandchildren. I do wonder though how the schools are keeping up with this, for instance, in the languages. Here in Canada, even though we are supposedly a bilingual country, French is only taught sporadically within the school system (unless you enroll in french immersion). Starting to teach children languages – possibly even mandarin – as early as grade one when they are so open to learning – seems to me to be just a starting point.
    As far as having executives in the different countries who know the language and the customs just seems logical. The only thing I do wonder – should there still not be one, much smaller head office, that ties it all together?

  17. Most of what she says can hardly be dismissed. The world HAS changed. We have to change with it.

    Education is not enough. When I was working in a global joint venture, completely online and in emails, know that we are all different was barely enough to comprehend our very different work ethic in various ways.

    If you're going to work for a large corporation today, or any company that has a world wide presence, all Anna's advice is going to go a long way toward success.
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  18. I think this post goes hand-in-hand with another you published not so long ago. You have to understand your markets to be successful. That means you need to understand other cultures. If you can strategically employ locals who have first hand knowledge of the markets you are trying to break into, you have a much larger chance of success. So yes I agree that education in itself is not enough. It must be complimented with local knowledge of the intended market.

  19. When i was growing up in Southern India, we were learning English, the local language and Hindi, which is the national language. Since we knew English(even though there is a strong accent), emigrating to Canada to find a living was bit easier for us.

  20. Having a good education is always going to be important and I don't think anyone should ever let that fall by the wayside. However, with much of the workforce working remotely now a different skill-set is necessary. Working remotely also allows you to hire specific talent that will allow for the greatest benefit and chance of success. Those that can combine the right education, skills and cultural orientation to work remotely will be in high demand.

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  21. Very pertinent post and questions Catarina. I believe with globalization, the business landscape has changed to support Anna Travis’ assertions. I have personally experienced how understanding a market is now more a key to success than education. Just this morning I spoke to lady who had been offered a post by a global company setting up in Africa for the mere fact of her understanding the market as opposed to qualifications. Yes qualifications will linger in the background, but can you deal with the markets. Can you handle the sensitivities around cultures, communication channels, relationships and business practices? One size fits all approach to business is falling by the wayside as business realizes how markets are as different as people are, they are after all made up of the different people.

  22. As one of the founders of Ex-pat network Helsingborg International Connections, I am always on the lookout for discussions regarding global experience. This to help understand how Swedish companies are looking at the future of recruitment. We are currently building up a talent-pool within our network and have to date put several members to work with both local and international companies. I am interested in discussing how we can help open the mindsets of recruiters/HR-professionals in Sweden, as they seem to create a bottle-neck for international talent. Bearing in mind the Mobility Goals for EU countries, where Sweden now has 1% mobility of international talent, and by year 2020 we should be at 4%. Apart from faster action from Migrationsverket and others, we also need businesses to understand the value of international experience, especially since much of it is already here and waiting to be put to use!

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