Creating Your Personal Global Mindset

Creating Your Personal Global Mindset

September 29, 2014   |    West Now Home

The content herein is that of the author and does not reflect the position or opinion of Western International University (West). This article originally appeared in the West Alumni Connection newsletter.

By Lizabeth Matthiesen-Jones        

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 
—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

How do we, like Frodo, “keep our feet” in a rapidly changing world?  How do we develop a personal global mindset that allows us to embrace—rather than fear—globalization, while taking advantage of the personal and professional opportunities that await us? Lizabeth Matthesen-Jones, Western International University® (West) Professor and Department Chair for Marketing, shares four simple strategies that have helped her "keep her own feet" during her years in global business.

Since Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, technology has brought us closer together whether we like it or not. We operate on a global 24/7 news cycle. Our workplaces both at home and abroad now reflect tremendous diversity in generations, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation and religion, among other things, driven to a large extent by the pervasiveness of technology. Even if you never leave your hometown, you are confronted by globalization every time you walk out your door. Here are four simple strategies that have helped me "keep my feet" during my years in global business.

1. Look at your culture from the "outside."
How many of us really objectively examine our own cultures and what is and is not important in them, and why? Pretend you are a cultural stranger when you go to the mall or a restaurant. What does it look like? How do people treat one another? What would someone from another culture think of our most popular TV programs? What might they say about our culture to a stranger? The more we can look objectively at our own culture, the better we can understand why others may react to us in the ways that they do. Being able to examine situations objectively is a tremendous professional asset.

2. Travel.
Encountering first hand another culture enriches and broadens your perspective on other people and their points of view and experience. When you cannot visit in person, become a virtual explorer. Technology allows us to go anywhere. Explore other cultures, read their histories and their literature, look at their advertising, their cultural artifacts, holidays. Pick a country and go on a virtual vacation. Travel is the best educational experience and gift that you can ever give yourself. Having an understanding of other cultures demonstrates curiosity and initiative.

3. Leave "America" (or your personal culture) at home when you step out the door.
Forget that people may not do things the way you are used to or that their food looks or smells different or they look different. By opening your mind to new experiences — whether with a new employee from another generation or a boss from halfway around the world — and not judging things and people through the prism of your own culture, you can see things differently and learn not just about them but about yourself. Being open-minded is the hallmark of a true leader.

4. Perhaps most importantly, be informed.
One of the greatest gifts of technology is the ability to access information from around the world. Spend time looking for and exploring diverse points of view. If you read a story about an international event in your local paper, go search out how it is reported elsewhere in other cultures and other media. In doing this, you start to move away from stereotyping and ethnocentrism, which are the strategies of the mentally lazy. The individuals who constantly are learning about other cultures and points of view are the ones who stay ahead of the curve professionally.

Individuals and organizations thriving in today's global environment are the ones who step out their door and approach the world with open-mindedness, curiosity, initiative, objectivity, and an interest in what is happening around them. This does not mean abandoning your own culture; it is what makes you who you are. It means being open to exploring who other people are and what makes them that way. That is how opportunities — both professional and personal — are revealed, and that is how, like Frodo, you can "keep your feet" in the world.

View Related Webinar: Global Deesn't Have to Mean "Foreign" 
West Professor Liz Matthiesen-Jones discusses the 10 skills that research has shown that employers want and need today and for the future—regardless of the specific profession or industry.

Lizabeth Matthiesen-Jones is a 30+ year veteran of international business. She has worked in advertising, marketing and research, serving in managerial capacities for international advertising agencies and their clients around the globe. Her global clients have included Apple, American Express, Xerox, McDonald's, Procter & Gamble, General Foods, Avon and Mobil Oil. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College and a Master in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

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