Globalization

Monthly Archives: June 2013

Globalization

20100947-airplane-traveling-around-the-world-as-conceptIn today’s global market and increasingly fast-paced society, we often hear people say that the world is shrinking. In the 1960s, media expert and social visionary Marshall McLuhan coined the term “global village,” which accurately forecast many of the changes we see today—changes that are the product of advances in technology through telecommunications, travel, and personal computing.  New technologies have made it possible to rapidly move raw materials, capital, finished goods, and people across oceans, borders, and time zones. We can do that both physically and electronically, transporting whatever we may need from the far corners of the world into our offices, our classrooms, and our neighborhoods.

Chances are good that most of what you’ve worn, driven, operated, or eaten was designed, manufactured, and distributed by firms that are transnational in character, organization, and culture. Your pajamas were probably manufactured in China; your suit tailored in Italy; your cereal produced in the Midwestern United States; your toothbrush made in Taiwan; your wristwatch manufactured in Switzerland. Our day-to-day lives are inextricably bound up with products, processes, and services from all over the world—something that, thirty years ago, was thought to be extraordinary. Imported goods were considered a luxury by your parents. That’s no longer the case. Now Chinese factory workers wear New York Yankees ball caps; you wear gloves made in their factory.

We buy brand-name products from companies we think are American (Ford Motor Company, for example), only to discover that most of the component parts were manufactured in Brazil, Portugal, Ireland, or Canada. That German automobile in the neighbor’s garage (think of a Volkswagen Jetta) was assembled entirely in Mexico. Your Dell computer was manufactured in Round Rock, Texas, but the tech support at the other end of their 1-800 line is in Bangalore, India. That cell phone made in Finland or Japan doubles as a camera, permitting you to e-mail vacation snapshots anywhere in less than a minute.

As finished goods, capital, and the supply of labor move quickly around the world, so does the reality of workplace diversity. Through immigration, increased opportunities for education and advancement, and the upsurge of women and minorities in the workplace, the U.S. workforce is no longer a homogenous group of people who look, think, and behave in the same ways. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Year 2010 Census, among the nearly 319 million people inhabiting the United States, over 200 million are classified as White, about 41 million are African American or Black, more than 50 million are Hispanic or Latino, and approximately 16 million are Asian, along with those of other races or mixed race. And, the number of foreign-born people living in the U.S. is now 40 million, which is an increase of 9 million since the 2000 census. By 2043 the U.S. will become a majority-minority nation.

McLuhan’s global village is not composed of just those who come to North America. The issues inherent in intercultural communication are important for all those who leave the United States and Canada to live and work elsewhere. Kiplinger estimates that more U.S. Americans are living abroad than ever before—nearly four million, not including military and diplomats. As of 2003, there were more than 3,000 American corporations operating overseas to support this large number of expatriates, along with 36,300 foreign subsidiaries, affiliates, or branches from over 187 countries. With so many people coming and going, we have become a mobile, global culture of immense proportions.

At the same time, an image of a world growing smaller and more accessible, with a more-diverse population, working literally side by side in the marketplace, no longer brings to mind those nostalgic recollections of traveling abroad. The twentieth-century image of foreign travel is one of a tourist, intrigued by unusual or quaint customs as she samples interesting cuisine and buys colorful trinkets, all while conversing in an exotic language in some far-off land. Today, that image is as anachronistic as a steamer trunk. The global village is more than the superficial interaction of a tourist on vacation: It is the current-day reality of savvy business professionals, graduate business students, or the folks next door who interact each day with people from all over the world and from a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds. Globalization has come to stay.

In fact, Martin Gannon, a professor of business strategy and cross-cultural management at California State University San Marcos, defines globalization as the increasing interdependence among institutions (such as governments, businesses, nonprofits) as well as human beings.  As we have just discussed, we are able to cross borders with our communication, our products, our services, and our creativity through technology, travel, lower tariffs and human migration. Therefore, if we are living in a side-by-side global marketplace, then we need global leaders who are able to identify and interact with people who have different norms, perspectives and ideologies.  Leading people is hard enough because you deal with personality styles, backgrounds, preferences, and experiences.  But add an extra layer of complexity that comes with leading those from other culture groups and you will be challenged by language differences and cultural values that guarantee the potential for misunderstanding and failure.  In a nutshell, we could define a global leader as someone who deals with complexity, uncertainty and risk.

CONCLUSION

In this first blog we’ve looked at the nature of globalization and why it’s important to understand something about intercultural communication if you are to be a successful global leader.  Hopefully this provides a broad understanding of the complexity of human interaction as we try to communicate across borders.  It can be done, and done successfully – we need to begin by developing our knowledge of both intercultural communication concepts in general and different cultures in particular – then we need to engage with others who are different than we are and practice, through trial and error, and then reflect on those interactions.  By doing this we can develop strategies that will help us connect with others and understand them on a deeper level.  Stay tuned as this website provides the services and knowledge to achieve successful global leadership.

 

Sources

Lawrence A. Samovar and Richard E. Porter, Intercultural Communication: A Reader, 4th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1994), 71.

U.S. Population by Race, Census 2000 and Census 2010 | Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/us/statistics/us-population-by-race.html#ixzz2bW19pFr7

Kiplinger Letter, vol. 79, no. 52 (December 27, 2002).

Northeastern University study, retrieved March 10, 2003, from http://www.cnn.com.

Uniworld Business Publications, Inc., “Directory of Foreign Firms Operating in the U.S., 11th ed., 2002.” Retrieved August 10, 2004, from http://www.uniworldbp.com.

“Open Doors 2002, Institute of International Education, November 18, 2002.” Retrieved August 10, 2004, from http://opendoors.iienetwork.org.

Uniworld Business Publications, Inc., “Directory of Foreign Firms Operating in the U.S., 11th ed., 2002.” Retrieved August 10, 2004, from http://www.uniworldbp.com.