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Being Global III: Global Leaders Act as Global Entrepreneurs

Posted: 05/08/2012 4:48 pm

In the previous post I discussed the importance of a global mindset for successful global leadership. But a global mindset's true value comes when global leaders act as global entrepreneurs and leverage their mindset for value creation. Global leaders become global entrepreneurs by using their global understanding and connections to identify international opportunities and turn them into new value-creating enterprises.

While "entrepreneurship" usually means the creation of a new business, global leaders do more than this. "Intrapreneurial" value creation obviously happens within established companies every day. And global entrepreneurs recognize that it's not just businesses that create new value. Some of the most exciting initiatives today are coming from the non-profit world.

Global entrepreneurs create value in three unique ways. The first is by tapping into commonalities between markets and cultures. This approach is used by organizations trying to bring a standard brand promise to diverse cultures, like global brands Nike or McDonald's. In a similar vein, companies like Intel bring broadly applicable technological solutions to diverse communities.

Conversely, global entrepreneurs tap differences among countries in order to access distinct comparative advantages. Many IKEA products, for example, are designed in Sweden but assembled in China using African cotton and Polish plywood. Finally, global entrepreneurs access networks and create value by building platforms that allow global exchange. Hong Kong-based Global Sources, for example, uses a standard trading platform to facilitate value creating exchange between suppliers in Asia and clients around the world.

Global entrepreneurs even consider language a shared culture and a platform to build and leverage. Take Lalit Ahuja, director of Target India, whom we met in the previous post in this series. In the companies he worked for prior to Target he found an obsessive focus on cultural differences. "I spent a lot of time managing perceptions and educating people on both sides of the ocean on how to work across cultures," he says. "It was unproductive and ultimately produced work that wasn't relevant."

In building Target's Indian headquarters, he took a different tack. He placed the emphasis not on cultural differences, but on forging a shared corporate culture with Target's headquarters. In Ahuja's words, it was critical that everyone who worked for Target was "the same shade of red." This common cultural platform has meant that the advantage Target gains from its Indian operation is not mere low-cost commodity service. The first major project undertaken by Target India, for instance, was leading the high profile redesign of a Target store in Arizona. The true value for Target is the ability to pursue these high-value initiatives 24 hours a day, handing projects seamlessly between time zones across a shared cultural platform. To learn more about global leadership, see the new book, Being Global: How to Think, Act and Lead in a Transformed World published by Harvard Business Review Press.

In the next post I will explore the final facet of today's global leaders: global citizenship.

 

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