What Does Globalization Mean to You?

From the archives, by Wallie Dayal

The concept of globalization challenges all of us, whether it knowingly touches our lives or whether we have not given it any thought at all. Of the 10 professionals to whom I posed this question, one third had not given this topic any thought. Each of the others had a ready answer:

  • It means communication, interconnectedness.
  • It means accomplishing things easier, cheaper, and quicker.
  • Something on a bigger scope than local.
  • It means opportunity, reducing trade barriers, growth.
  • It means that there are many different ways to do things, all of which are valid in their own right.
  • It means a composite of things, an aggregate view.
  • It means reallocating resources away from poorer nations to wealthier nations.
  • Its meaning depends on your point of view.

In the end, our point of view determines how we see the world. We can thank globalization for cheap consumer goods from Japan, southeast Asia, and other parts of the world. Without it, instant communication with friends in other countries would only be a dream; instead we can visit our friends in distant parts of the globe within the span of a few hours. The media bombard us with messages and meanings about globalization, which resonate with our understanding of the concept. It spells euphoria and unlimited potential for some, destitution, fear of survival, hopelessness and despair for others. Globalization is a medium which touches nearly every aspect of contemporary live in the ëcivilized’ world. We consume products whose familiar names mask that their components have been manufactured in distant lands. For consumers, product selection is rich, colorful and reasonably priced. Buying only American-made products is not a realistic option for the average consumer; a full complement of American-made products for day-to-day living is simply not available.

Globalization is the engine of trade and of explosive economic prosperity in the US and, conversely of devastating economic malaise in Southeast Asia. This extreme polarity finds expression in uncertainty about the future and in volatile financial markets.

Historically, the victor’s perspective of conventional wars has been reflected in history books. At present, economic victors are putting their spin on the definition of globalization, while ascribing fault, such as crony- capitalism in southeast Asia, to the losers. For now, the argument of the victorious stands. Their worldview is shaped and disseminated. And yet, sooner or later, it will be replaced by the next argument, equally compelling, equally buttressed with statistics. Not long ago, Japan occupied the economic driver’s seat which is occupied by the US today.

Globalization is a dynamic concept of universal proportions. All of us are in its inexorable grip whether we support it or not, understand it or not. Even those who have spent much time and effort understanding globalization cannot rest on their laurels. Change is ever-present and yesterday’s besieged has the potential to be tomorrow’s victor. Alternatively, we can make use of the communication tools and resources which globalization has put at our fingertips to forge cooperative efforts and trans-global relationships of mutual understanding and prosperity not yet seen. In such a world, multilateral winners could make the historical win/lose cycle obsolete.

For now, globalization can only be defined point in time by point of view. Whether we choose to be participants or spectators during the globalization process, our understanding of it will grow and evolve as globalization forces transform the world we live in today.

A Personal View

Globalization offers me the opportunity to explore and enrich a new frontier for my German-English-speaking clients by identifying pitfalls and booby traps in their trans- national business activities.

German-speaking business people, a proud and highly educated group, they have traditionally relied solely on their school English as adequate preparation for doing business with English-speaking business partners. This reliance rested on the mistaken belief that a large number of Americans are just like German-speaking Europeans, with one exception, they speak English. While some have recovered from the lashings and bruises of their trans-continental encounters, others have retreated to relative isolation after suffering substantial financial loss.

During the current phase of globalization, I often get a chance to participate in international management training classes, at board meetings and business meetings where I often occupy a privileged position: I am able to coax along and bring about new connections, a deeper understanding, new possibilities for collaboration and insights. Lights go on in the heads of business executives; they begin to understand how a business process functions in the other culture and that this process is not wrong because it is different, but just as valid and good within its own context. Often, such realizations open new horizons and possibilities for constructive collaboration.

Even when transcontinental business partners speak the same language, the international language of business: English, communication is often elusive. For example, when a German managing director unambiguously asserts his priorities, his commitments to his employees, and his American partner is just as unambiguous about his priority, to improve the bottom line next quarter, language difference is not the issue. The first priority of this ërational’ American businessperson is the bottom line, while for this German executive, being ërational’ puts his reputation, his word in first place.

Worldviews, values and culture, in addition to personality and company differences are at issue here. Today, in the global age we are increasingly recognizing our global interdependence and our respective uniqueness, we are learning that there are other valid approaches, besides our own. And therein lies much of the richness, beauty and possibilities of globalization. Navigating along the jagged ridges which separate cultures, helping alternately one side and then the other to get a better view and understanding of the other side is challenging and rewarding. Helping the parties to ultimately reach agreement, which allows both partners to scale, the mountain ahead with combined strength and momentum, that is the thrill of globalization for me. Knowledge Branches:

  • Management. Function: Globalization
  • Management. Sector: RELEVANT ACROSS SECTORS