When can we say a leader has a Global Thinking? If your team leader has travelled to several countries is he/she a global thinker? If you work for an international organization do you have the global thinking? If your company has a foothold in several countries, is it a global company? What does it mean to be a global company? Must the company have products and processes that are consistent with the culture and values of each country?
The questions above do not have one simple answer as Global Thinking is quite a complex topic. It is also a trendy topic in the global arena where leaders search for a wider set of strategies in their arsenal, trying to get an in-depth understanding of leading and working with/within multicultural teams. Many acronyms are created in an attempt to a better understanding of our global world and to support leaders to work internationally. VUCA is one (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) and BANI (‘brittle’, ‘anxious’, ‘nonlinear’ and ‘incomprehensible’) is another example.
These acronyms are created in an effort to help professionals to control such complexity. I would say that, while new tools and techniques might be helpful to understand our world slightly better, we are not touching the fundamentals of the matter, which is the need of a mind-set change, a paradigm shift. A shift that will support us to embrace uncertainty and complexity instead of avoiding it.
In my work with teams and leaders I start by focusing on the balance of embracing global values – values that are relevant for the whole humanity such as sustainability, diversity, equality, etc – while being attentive to the local sensitivity and demands. It is necessary to start by acknowledging our universal values that support the living system on earth while being aware that its application varies depending on the context.
To make this happen we need to design spaces for dialogical encounters, for communication and reflection, understanding our own values and the diversity of the world.
I will share here with you some resources for action I use to support the activation of this new mindset.
- Design participatory places/spaces
The first step to promote a mind-set chance, is to create participatory places and spaces in order to form a sense of trust and belonging with the people you are working with. When preparing for that, think about how the physical environment is facilitating (or not) active connections and then, when the interactions begins, be attentive to the process of relating. That means being connected to how people talk, acknowledging topics that emerge, highlighting them and building with them. That will allow the diversity of ideas to be included in the conversation, which in turn will generate engagement of participants and a sense of belonging, fundamental ingredients for participatory practices.
- Not knowing approach or Not-too-quick-to-know position (Anderson, 2008)
This resource invites a position that challenges the binary: an expert who knows X a participant who doesn’t know. The invitation here is to change the traditional attitude of the specialist who knows everything and embrace a position in which there is no rush in knowing what the other is exactly trying to say. There is an invitation here to take more time to understand what is occurring instead of jumping into conclusions and making interpretations. One way of doing that is to ask more questions before making a judgment. Do not close the conversation too quickly with a premature understanding of the situation.
When not in a rush to understand, interpret and categorize, you allow more space to appreciate the other’s rationale. That also permits recognition of the resources that people/ organization are using to cope/ to solve the situation. With that we move from being an expert into having an expertise. Acknowledging that everyone has a knowledge, you create more democratic spaces for dialogue.
- The art of asking questions – Curiosity stance (Cecchin, 1998; Johansen, Specht & Kleive, 2020)
Questions are invitations to conversations. The words we use direct people to specific conversational paths. If we believe that words create worlds, then if we talk a language of problems we will be creating a reality of problems. Instead, if we embrace a language of possibilities we create a reality of possibilities. Asking good questions with a curiosity stance is about having a genuine interest in the stories told by the participants. Curious questions also invites unfolding stories, allowing participants to think differently, expanding understanding and to see other perspectives of a topic. Framing questions that are curious, invites the generation of possibilities and better exploration of the matter. Furthermore, in order to amplify the conversation and expand ideas, promote out of the box thinking. Make sure ideas discussed can be challenged, disrupted, almost at the edge of their rationale; Innovative thinking comes from ideas that do not exist yet and are not available in the common type of thinking. That will open up new possibilities for action.
These three resources shared above are just few examples of how I work when supporting teams and leaders to embrace Global Thinking successfully. With them, you can learn how to invite and explore new mind-sets by facilitating better conversations on global matters translated into local context.
All these ideas above are based on the theoretical principles of Social Constructionism. This theory invites us to move from Universal truth into the meaning making (contextual truths with a small “t”); from a rational paradigm into a relational paradigm (collaborative processes); from evidence-based knowledge into experience-based (plurality of knowledge). Within this theory you always “hold your plans lightly” (Spaan and Simon, 2021), which means, you prepare in advance, you make a plan, but once you are there, with your participants, then you are open to the process, focusing on the here and now.
This is what having a truly Global Thinking is all about: You embrace uncertainty; you get fascinated by differences and controversies and you co-create from there. And this is where the innovation happens.