Are you a global asset?

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 + Picture:  Sam Howzit

81 thoughts on “Are you a global asset?

  1. I like the video. It's about time that we update the perception of what one needs to become economically successful in life. That being said, I believe that it does depend on the niche whether or not to approach something globally or locally and when globalization works.

  2. I feel that a good education plus some time spend working abroad gives people a better understanding of the business culture. Even today, understanding local cultures are important to succeed in business in some countries.

  3. In today`s world its not just formal education that counts.Far more important than that is wordly education.To understand the needs of people which vary from country to country culture.And the world has become a global village thanks to the internet.You can work from anywhere in any time zone with just a laptop/desktop and internet connection.Yes you are qualified but can you deliver in today`s fast changing world is the question.Can you give us what we want?Thats what counts!!!

    1. Absolutely. You can easily work like that. But to understand cultures different from your own you need to live, work and integrate with the locals in different countries/cultures. The majority of people who live abroad don't. Swedes stick to Swedes, Indians to Indians and so forth. Their understanding of a different culture is often limited to what they hear, true or false.

  4. One can succeed in any country once they are willing and able to communicate and embrace the culture. The days of everyone having to be present in the boardroom are long gone. Nowadays Skype calls be set up with the meeting in China and the person calling in sitting in their home in the UK.

    1. In theory yes but in reality no. The majority of people are not interested in understanding cultures different to their own. Even when they live abroad they just socialize with people from their own country.

  5. From new "retirees" to millennials I've had numerous people talk to me about their desire to find work in distant places. It's not just that they want to see the world, they could do that with a holiday. They want to immerse themselves in a different culture, see from another perspective. They want to experience the world and it would seem the world wants their experience.

  6. This is a wonderful post, I agree with everything written about globalization and being a global asset. I am worried because some countries are trying to retreat from these concepts and are trying to become isolated. Their concept is that they can have more control over their internal companies. We have seen that in Britain, and even from a candidate in the US presidential election.
    I am afraid of some of these countries will be left behind, as the rest of the world becomes even more globalized. If this occurs, it will become even more important that individuals make themselves a global asset, even if their countries do not.

    1. Glad you like the article, William. The worst country when it comes to trying to have more control and feeling that their country is special is the United States of America. They believe the rest of the world should adapt to them and hence cause a lot of trouble.

  7. My degree is in international business and have worked with companies that were global for a number of years before my kids were born. Even though, now I am primarily a home based small business owner and VA, my husband works globally in the tech industry with no international degree. I have noticed that technology is one industry that is leading the charge of global leadership. For example, my husband’s company leaders are in Germany, their main headquarters are in UK, he works in the US managing the technology group for the entire global company. I think if you are offered the opportunity and you are willing to learn how to deal with other companies abroad, it becomes an asset on your resume since the entire world has become smaller these days.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Having a good education is always important, so that can’t be disregarded. People today are going to have to learn different skills though since so many people are working remotely. Individuals with the education, talent and cultural knowledge and sensitivity to work remotely are going to be highly valuable to employers. When employers can choose from a wider talent pool by having people working remotely it will enable them to hire people with specific talents they are seeking.

    1. Absolutely, a good education is crucial, Susan. And we need to keep on doing academic studies throughout life. The issue here is mainly that thoroughly understanding cultures different from your own is becoming essential. Thankfully because I have come across, mainly Americans I'm sorry to say, that have behaved like bulls in a china shop because of their opinion that other cultures should adapt to the American way of doing things.

  9. I agree that at a certain level experience in general is more important than education. Education is probably more on a issue for entry level management positions but after that it is indeed taken for granted. I also agree with her about utilizing talent wherever it may exist. However, having spent a good deal of time in global organizations based in Britain and in the U.S., I pretty consistently came across managers in other parts of the world who sometimes struggled to participate at the same level of those in the head office and who found working remotely from that head office to be a disadvantage. So it is not sufficient to merely recruit talent in other parts of the world, you have to provide them the opportunity to participate at the same level as head office leaders.

    1. Education is important make no bones about it. And so is experience because it turns knowledge into competence. But the main issue here is that global experience i.e. having lived, worked/studied and integrated in cultures very different from your own is becoming increasingly important. What a pity that the organisation you worked for found it difficult to work with talent in offices in other parts of the world. Personally have really positive experience of working like that.

  10. Years gone back, a degree carried much. Nowadays, everyone is working towards a masters. Education alone is not enough. Employers have their pick of the best graduates – competition is fierce.

  11. Education is a must, that is what lays the foundation of our personality & character building. While experience helps us in growing taking our decisions. When we construct a Building once the base built is strong the visual can be designed and modeled as required. Same way after our completion of education, our experiences which we gain in coming times help us using our education well.

    With the increase in multinational companies and globalization on rise the number of offices may increase located in various locations, but that will help the companies manage their work accordingly.

    The future is ready for the right kind of people who have the education and the experienced and developed skill to take on the market!

    1. Absolutely, Sushmita. But this post is not about education versus experience but about the importance of thoroughly understanding cultures different from your own in order to succeed there.

  12. Totally agree. Education is necessary, but it's kind of like saying, dressing and combing your hair is necessary. Years ago, I remember hearing numerous stories about this social faux pas or the next because business people didn't have sufficient information about local norms (like dealing their business cards like a deck of cards to Japanese businessmen). Some of them were funny, some of them horrifying. They created unnecessary and costly business challenges. I assume (hope) things have gotten better with time, but that cultural piece can never be underestimated and as for having multiple languages, well that speaks for itself. 🙂

  13. As an ex-teacher and parent of two adult daughters, I can tell you that formal education is over-rated. As an entrepreneur I need to hire freelancers with common-sense, good English and good arithmetic.
    Being street-wise is more use than a formal education involved regurgitating the words of "experts".
    Unfortunately education as I know it is only geared to producing more university fodder, because league tables and local high schools' results comparisons are the tools parents use to judge schools.

  14. I've met people who are highly educated who are "smart" and I've met educated people who are just educated. A good education can be a good start. But I believe gone are the days when an education alone will pave your way. And as the world becomes "smaller" and we are more able to work around the globe, the game will definitely change. Because at the end of the day, nobody really cares how educated you are. They care if you can solve their problem, whatever that might be. And if you become an amazing problem solver without taking the route of an ivy league education, you'll probably be successful.

    1. Exactly, at the end of the day what people care about is if you can solve their problem. If you don't have experience of a market with a completely different culture to your own you will almost certainly fail.

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

    My recent post Marshmallow Ladybugs: #Recipe

    1. Education is essential and important, Susan. But it has been inflated too much starting in the United States. Nowadays you need an MBA for a position where in the past you didn't even need a university degree. The result is that mediocre people who can afford an MBA have the upper hand against people who would have done a better job but can not afford to study. Apart from that we are on the same page.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.
    My recent post How Do You Get Over It When Things Go Wrong?

  21. 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?

    1. Yes working on a global scale is wonderful and interesting, Lenie. Don't forget that technology now enables us to do what recently could not be done. In Sweden kids start learning other languages early and can opt for Mandarin when they are about 10. It's more than customs you have to master. You have to understand what motivates and drives people from different cultures, which is impossible if you have not lived, worked/studied and integrated in it.

  22. 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
    My recent post How to Make a Big Impression with a Small Promotion: Oreo Mini Delivery

  23. 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.
    My recent post Trekking and Eating in Ubud

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

    1. Yes, Beth, what she outlines is the way of the future. Ignoring other countries cultures is the worst mistake you can make. Hate to tell you but Americans are probably the worst in this respect. Don't know how many times I have heard people all over the world complain about hos Americans explained to them how their country and company worked. Have to add that frequently the people who were treated like that by Americans were educated at Harvard or other Ivy League universities. The main reason is that some Americans believe they can behave like that because the US is, still, the only superpower

  26. 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.
    My recent post What Mad Men Taught Me About The Design Biz

  27. 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.
    My recent post Le Petit Cheri: the Newest Darling of South Manila

    1. Interesting interpretation Adeline. Where does global experience, that she stresses, come in?:-) Seems to me you are doing fine.

      Anyway, she is basically looking at what will be most important for multinational companies from now on.

  28. 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!!!

  29. 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.

  30. 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.
    My recent post 9 Posts on Website Security

  31. 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.
    My recent post Why You Need to Raise Your Clout With Klout

  32. 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…
    My recent post A Story By Nadiyah Hussain

  33. 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.
    My recent post Do You Want to Change The Use of Space in Your Home?

    1. Yes, AK. Initially there will be the kind of difficulties you mention, that's part of the market becoming truly global. And the US will be hit harder than any other country. Americans will, like all other nationalities in the world, start integrating in other cultures and become global assets. That's a change that's inevitable so the sooner they start the better.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.
    My recent post Figs & Honey Dessert Recipe

      1. LOL …. Yes. I just had to talk it out to there. :)))
        My recent post Figs & Honey Dessert Recipe

  36. 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.
    My recent post Cell Phone Bling

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.