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Are you the leader of a company looking to enter new markets?  Here are five important business capabilities to unlock any market entry challenge in an enduring way.

Be trust oriented.  When there is trust there is collaboration, and latest research shows that when there is a positive emotional connection there is trust.  The best way of achieving this in business is by developing and marketing strong brands at product and corporate level.  Well managed brands capture trust, enable premium pricing, drive sales growth, allow room for making up for crisis and create opportunities for their companies to identify new business opportunities through partnerships. Create brands people will love, be proud to use, recommend, defend and want to help grow. Track brand performance by measuring brand contribution, a metric that quantifies the strength of a brand exclusively and indicates brand loyalty.  Again, recent studies conclude that brands can account for more than one third of shareholder value. Branding is well worth the effort.

Facilitate people interaction in your business system.  Yes, a key success factor is the customer focus of your business. “And” your customers are not the only human decision makers in your business system.  It is critical for you to understand each external as well as internal decision maker whom you expect to give life to your brand.  First, examine the assumptions of your internal decision makers about how and why your products and services should succeed in the new market.  Then, research all your external decision makers including your customers but also key influencers such as industry opinion leaders, related nonprofit organizations and universities and local administrative bodies. Understand how they are currently making decisions and what kind of information they need to understand the value of your products and services. Understand what kind of value expectations they have to consider new products and services. This type of research does not require huge budgets.  Targeted research that looks into how your products and services can help improve what your audiences want to achieve will serve the purpose. Evaluate all information in your new product development processes and identify communication gaps to share your brand effectively.

Understand and respond to local cultures.  Let’s take the U.S. market as an example. The U.S. culture celebrates individual achievement and contribution.  Your products and services need to be competitively positioned and branded to succeed in this market.  The American society welcomes creativity, innovation and initiative.  If your company has something unique to offer and your business leaders are ready to pursue initiatives that engage your offering in the daily experiences of people you are in luck.  Furthermore, take pride in customer service as American consumers expect companies to solve product and service related problems as soon as possible and demonstrate immediate accountability.  Never lose sight of the human aspect of market entry and remember that communication is the foundation of all human interaction.  Keeping in mind that there can be regional or diversity related differences, communication is straight forward in the U.S..  Ensure all verbal and written business communication is clear, concise and organized.  Also, information flows freely. There are plenty of opportunities to gather as well as communicate information.  Therefore, developing a communications plan which includes interactive online presence and responsiveness are critical to your market entry success.  Identify partnerships with other organizations and people who share the same vision with your firm, and prepare to improve conditions and lives together.  A good social responsibility program is not a good idea anymore but should be an integral part of your brand development and launch process.  Assuming leadership positions or volunteer roles in industry associations will also demonstrate your sincere interest in the American market and society.

Develop a global-minded organizational culture. Cultivate an organizational culture of curiosity and humility among your international business leaders as they find their ways to the hearts of new markets. Engage the thoughts and intuitions of your employees as your business encounters international business experiences.  Offer relevant training opportunities to help them learn different ways of business conduct to become effective in their respective professional areas.  And again, track organizational and relationship trust levels to facilitate adequate communication across all boundaries.

Aim high.  There is no reason for not feeling confident in a market entry situation if you have done all your homework.  Markets and people can sense a lack of confidence and consistence immediately. Identify your business system, facilitate all human interactions, nurture and reward effectiveness with a global business culture, beware of cultural differences, keep your new product development processes in the loop, develop your business and communications strategy, engage with the market through your brand, create your performance measurement systems and then, simply enjoy entering new markets with confidence and finesse. 

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Are you preparing to work with people from another culture? What kind of feelings and thoughts are filling your heart and mind?

Success in new markets certainly depends on a number of things ranging from the strength of your market analysis, the positioning of your offering to customer solutions and management of glocal business complexities.  However, regardless of what business you are in, the ability to work well across cultures will be critical in helping you succeed in your business endeavors.

Today, the intercultural and international/global business fields offer great models and knowledge to navigate the cultural complexities in addition to the economic and administrative complexities of international business.  However, to leverage the usefulness of all these resources my experience as a trainer and coach shows that one needs to switch to a different mindset – a mindset of curiosity.

An experienced professional wanting to work in different markets is typically concerned with the following “how” questions:

  • How do I not offend?
  • How can I get across effectively what I mean?
  • How can I build trust?
  • How can I be a person people enjoy to work with?
  • How can I truly compliment core local values that are of essence to other people while respecting the values I want to stand for because they are so important to me?

To answer the above questions it is useful to continue asking even more detailed questions:

  • What are critical business skills that will help me, my team or organization succeed?
  • How do these get influenced by cultural differences?
  • What specifically can offend?
  • What kind of behavior do people in a specific new market believe is effective?
  • Which values drive the effectiveness behavior in the new market and how do these influence people’s perceptions?
  • Is this the way I would approach situations?
  • Which values influence my behavior?
  • How much do I know about the origins and achievements of the foreign culture and my own culture?
  • How much do I know about what makes people laugh and relax in the other culture?
  • How much flexibility can I demonstrate sincerely when adapting to the other culture?
  • Am I aware of my nonnegotiable values which I may need to communicate effectively to people from the other culture?
  • Do I have a rich repertoire of different ways of communicating thoughts and feelings?

When working across cultures and prior to starting to evaluate any appropriate business or management models it is important to ask if you are starting the entire process with a “mindset of wonder” rather than “judgment” which I want to describe as the “mindset of curiosity”.  This in particular will help you identify and put all resources for success into good use especially because international business resources can come from unconventional places like conversations, some type of collaboration, a lot of times as a lesson from an awkward moment and simulations trainers can create to bring this type of experience into the classroom or coaching situation.  Without the “mindset of curiosity” it is possible to oversee good advice, clues and most importantly goodwill.  In this aspect, I believe that adults actually may have a lot to learn from children who no matter which country a playground is in tend to be able to have a great time with other children.  If we asked them “So how did it feel to play in this new playground?” the answer is most likely to be “Oh, it was so much fun! Tomorrow, can we go to another park please?”.

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Have you ever heard the beautiful, exciting and passionate sounds of the music called “Sanjo”?

If you have, you may know that Sanjo is a form of Korean traditional music that allows the performer to freely express his or her outstanding technique and original interpretation of the piece. It is one of the most representative artistic forms of Korean traditional music.

I experienced Sanjo at a recent event and was taken by Sanjo and enthralled at what I learned about South Korean culture, history and people.  It reminded me that a positive and low-risk experience with a new culture can spark passion for and create a fervent desire to work more with a culture.  In business context, it enhances our Global Mindset levels and increases our global leadership and creative thinking skills.

To that end, a huge thank you to the The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the Korean Tourism Organization for organizing a great learning experience for association executives considering holding events in South Korea and for being such gracious hosts of this event. And to So-yeun Jung and her students who performed the Sanjo and two other magical pieces called “Wind, River” and “Canon for the Gayageum Trio” with their impressive instruments called “Gayageum” – a Korean traditional zither like instrument; your music was beautiful. And as a global mindset trainer I could not help but see and sense some characteristics of the Korean culture rise through the tunes and harmony of the musicians conveying the different kind of formality, relationship orientation, high context communication style, expressiveness and role of silence intercultural trainers like to discuss in business trainings when they train business professionals about Korean business culture.

Not to mention the delicious dessert we enjoyed called “Tteok”, a sweet and a flavorful rice dessert before being served the most colorful and artistically prepared traditional cookies I have ever seen.  I later learned that these traditional Korean cookies are called “Hangwa” and come in many varieties like “yumilgwa, gangjeong, sanja, dasik, jeonggwa, suksilgwa , gwapyeon, yeotgangjeong and yeot”.

Opportunities like this event, museum visits, watching foreign movies/documentaries, reading related books and websites and developing friendships with people from different cultures of interest are great to make observations, ask questions and learn to become effective for further business and personal adventures with these new cultures.

It was also wonderful to learn more about Korea in the wonderful presentations given by Sejoon You, the Executive Director of the Korean Tourism Organization, and Sung Kyung Kim, the Manager of the Organization.  They have every reason to do be proud and confident with South Korea preparing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and having hosted other major events like the 2002 World Cup and the 1988 Summer Olympics.  Korea Air is an ambitious and growing airline, representative of the excellence the country currently strives.

Seol, with its high energy – stores operating 24/7 – sophisticated and cosmopolitan vibe combined with low crime, makes it very appealing to visitors.  An association executive at my table told us all how he was so pleased with his association’s regional conference experience in Seoul.  The 5000 attendees loved it, with much praise and not one complaint.

Again, kudos to the Korean Tourism Organization and ASAE for making this event happen. The hands-on expertise of the panel was also very helpful.  Click here to review the details of this past event and look out for similar future events. Looking forward to any insights you may have for working well with South Korean business partners and/or getting a chance to enjoy other specifics of the Korean culture.

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Do you want your organization to succeed in international markets in innovative and economically sustainable ways?

As international business trainers we spend much of our time helping our learners understand different cultures including their own culture and work effectively across cultures.  Cultural awareness is crucial for building trust across cultures – a critical ingredient of success in international business.

However, research and experience show that to succeed in international business we also need to excel in other key skills such as analytical thinking or ability to explain complex issues to others in simple ways, in-depth product and market knowledge as well as an engagement oriented attitude.

Great examples can be found in the world of entrepreneurs.  Small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) often are the locomotives of economies creating jobs and bringing innovation.  According to OECD data and country specific statistics SMEs account for two-thirds of employment; high growth SMEs contribute significantly to job creation, and they contribute significantly to exports and innovation. Due to advances in technology, transportation and established global markets today’s SMEs have the opportunity to instantly grow internationally.  Let’s remember how famous global brands like Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Starbucks and Chobani Yogurt are the products of incredible entrepreneurial hard work as are non-U.S. born international brands like Alibaba of China, Tata of India and Ülker of Turkey although the latter two are traditional firms which started making significant international advances more in recent years through corporate entrepreneurial efforts and have leaders from the families who started the businesses. These firms surely had a great understanding of cultures around the world as they grew exponentially but their business savvy, their ability to engage different kinds of talent, ideas and resources as well as simply their commitment to making things work in new market conditions were and are remarkable.

According to Thunderbird School of Global Management and their extensive research the employees of smaller firms have higher levels of what they have defined as the Global Mindset® than larger firms. Considering the recent challenges of multinational corporations in international markets and their human resource needs this is important to know as your organization tries to succeed in international markets.

The Global Mindset® is a set of individual attributes that help influence individuals, groups, organizations, and systems that are unlike the leader’s, and a reliable and valid way of assessing a leader’s readiness to work internationally or assume global roles.  The Global Mindset® concept has three components: the intellectual capital which is the individual’s capacity to understand how business works on a global level (e.g. a good grasp of how the industry operates worldwide, how global consumers behave, how competitors target their needs and habits, and how strategic risk varies by geography); the psychological capital which is the individual’s receptiveness to new ideas and experiences as well as his/her self-assurance in unfamiliar circumstances (e.g. passion for diversity, thirst for adventure, self-assurance); the social capital which is the individual’s ability to build trusting relationships with people of different backgrounds and mentalities (e.g. intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact, diplomacy).  Global Mindset® levels can be assessed with an instrument called the Global Mindset® Inventory (GMI) which was validated in 62 countries.  High Global Mindset® levels were co-related with strong thought, results, people and personal leadership indicators.

Thunderbird research found that respondents in organizations that hire less than 100 employees had higher Global Mindset® levels than respondents in organizations that hire over 100 employees.  The research indicated that as organizations grow larger, organizational culture may begin to dominate and restrict exposure and learning from outside cultural forces.

A promising finding for larger organizations was that an individual’s quest for adventure can be higher for people working in larger organizations.  Considering the healthiness of entrepreneurship for economies and organizations it is critical for large organizations to understand how to nurture entrepreneurship within the organization.  Even if the organizational culture is strong, if large firms like established multinational corporations (MNCs) manage to hire employees with high quest for adventure and value this attribute the likelihood exists that these employees will still increase their Global Mindset® levels, contribute to the success of their firms in unique ways and raise the overall Global Mindset® levels of the firm for accelerated success.

International businesses often and fortunately focus on the need of cultural competence to succeed in international business. This is understandable as we know that culture can eat strategy for breakfast and cultural competence is in the heart of the Global Mindset® especially with its Social Capital component. However, cultural competence gains continuity through curiosity and a passion for diversity while demonstrating self-assurance.  All these combined may still not be sufficient if professionals don’t take the time to engage critical business analysis, knowledge, strategy and tactics to their market entry approaches. Hence, international businesses need to incorporate the Global Mindset® as a foundational leadership development concept and track the ROI of their professional development investments with regards to how these contribute to higher Global Mindset® levels correlated with success in business – a critical step forward on the path to evaluating ROI based on real business outcomes and to succeeding with confidence and finesse in international business.

Resource: the GMI Technical Report

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In 2014 we see women carry a wide spectrum of responsibilities that range from the noble role of motherhood to community, professional and national leadership.  And yet many women also continue to struggle for a good quality of life and equality all around the world.  Today it’s important to remember past struggles and achievements performed by female leaders in each society and take an example of assuming leadership for the future of our little women today as well as to teach them to do so for generations to come.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was honored to attend a concert in memory of Dr. King at Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC.  We sang our hearts out during this concert; the music was so wonderful and meaningful.  Listen here to “If I had a hammer” if you are not familiar with the song.  But I was most affected by the speech of an African American professional woman who said that she was there today because of Dr. King’s leadership and the efforts of others.  She was able to go to school, learn read and write, go to college and become a TV anchor obviously full of passion for her job.  And this concert had been organized for students.  Majority of the audience were students.  I felt that she taught all these young minds of a fluent Internet age how hard work had to go into rights we may be taking for granted today.  The loss of these rights can pave the way to new struggle, pain and even loss of lives.

Women in every country have different struggles.  I would like to dedicate my post today to Turkish women as a new milestone is coming up with elections on March 30, 2014.  Current issues for Turkish women can be summarized as professional equality in status and pay, access to schooling as well as working, domestic violence which has increased significantly in the past ten years and societal pressures.  Turkish women need to remember fellow women who have made sacrifices to advance the role and quality of life of women and Atatürk whose leadership enabled women to vote and be elected to office in the early years of the Turkish Republic.  They need to remember how fellow women made and continue making sacrifices in other countries to do the same.  They need to acknowledge women in more challenging circumstances and how quickly these circumstances can evolve if not pre-empted.

Here’s a popular song by Safiye Ayla, one of my favorite female Turkish Classical Music performers: Katibim

And here’s the same song performed by Fazıl Say, a contemporary Turkish pianist: Katibim  as well as Fazıl Say performing with a Turkish girl who sings about a 7 year old girl who died in Hiroshima: Nazım Oratorio

Cheers to all the beautiful and strong women, and the great men who support them all around the world!

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Ironically, during the first week of the largest competitive global sports event I spent much of my time at the leadership conference of an inspiring nonprofit organization which has affiliates in 37 countries. The theme of the conference was “collaboration”.  There could be no better organization to talk about collaboration.  There were representatives from 37 countries but united by the vision they shared together and the belief that they could make a difference in the lives of people – providing them with hope and meaning.

The timing of this conference made it inevitable to talk about Herb Brooks, the legendary coach of the young U.S. Hockey Team that beat the experienced and all time champion Soviet Hockey team during the Lake Placid Winter Olympics in 1980.  We discussed history as told through the movie “Miracle” about this “miracle” team and Herb Brooks.  The inspiring head coach Herb Brooks had the conviction that a group of players who thinks, plays and feels like a team would be able to succeed.  He picked the players according to their ability to play in the team and also put them through rigorous training that emphasized the importance of this goal.  When he asked the players “Who do you play for?” at the beginning of their journey to the championship each player answered with the college or university he played for prior to getting picked for the Olympic Team.  It took Mike Eruzione, the captain of the team to call out “I’m Mike Eruzione.  I play for the United States of America.”  for Herb to end a never-ending conditioning exercise. It was Herb Brooks again who rewarded the team with the following words in the changing room right before the final game against the Soviet team: “Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”

There are many factors that contribute to the success of collaboration such as connecting via a shared vision, agreeing on how decision making and problem solving will take place in the organization, how communication will change, how the organization will work across cultures to engage different perspectives and what kind of values need to be in place to make this happen.  However, a lot of responsibility lies with the leader.  Research shows that multicultural teams underperform single-culture teams when the leader is not able to lead across cultures but they surpass in performance and creativity if the leader is effective. Leaders need to be able to help set strategic goals towards the vision. Global leaders need to engage people and stakeholders from different backgrounds to help create a good foundation for the success factors. The success factors for collaboration need to be endorsed by the leaders of the organization.

One attendee at the conference said that the entire organization was inspired when one of their board members said “I believe in fairies.”  After meeting the attendees of this conference I believed in fairies, too.  Not only was the vision they shared noble but there was something about the attendees’ ability to intently listen and be present in the moment despite their unique backgrounds and circumstances they work in.  It takes a leader with an ability to connect differences, a leader with conviction and self-assurance and a leader with a dream even if it sounds adventurous if not a little out there to inspire people.  But this is how miracle teams are made and this is how collaboration becomes real and succeeds.

And I should stop writing as I have now articulated my perspective on the success of collaboration.  I will do so after offering a resource for developing this often times naturally occurring leadership capability.

If we wanted to examine what capabilities would be needed to put our heart out there as a global leader and to have the ability to say “I believe in fairies” the practical global leadership concept called the Global Mindset® concept offers a learning platform especially via its “psychological capital” component. This is the hardest component to develop within the leadership concept.  But the concept breaks down the component into attributes that are so specific that they offer attainable learning goals. Research at Thunderbird School of Global Management and my own experience show that we can learn to inspire not only by building trust across cultures but also by our ability to connect diverse perspectives, diving into a new adventure and doing so in a confident manner.

Click here to learn more about the Global Mindset® concept.

And enjoy the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics which despite their competitive nature are the result of immense global collaboration and offer us new leaders who will continue to inspire us for many years to come.  Thank you Russia for a fantastic Opening Ceremony!



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I came across the visual for “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” in a presentation and thought that this statement is a perfect statement to start a discussion with my first post on the Culture Curious Global Blog.

This statement has proven to be true in my experience.  A global business strategy that doesn’t take into account cultural differences across markets and in organizations carries risk that can be preempted. Also, organizations planning to offer products and services that require consumers and businesses to adopt new cultures need to be aware of the creativity, time and investment needed for such a cultural change.

Business leaders with a strong global mindset understand the decision making systems of their consumers and business partners in different parts of the world, acknowledge different world views as global business resource and incorporate their understanding into their global business strategies to ensure faster, more effective and often more innovative global business conduct.

Examples, experiences?  Looking forward to posts.

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Would you like to submit your thoughts on the impact of culture or cultural awareness in international business?  Please connect.




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