Improving Global Innovation Performance Through Multicultural Collaboration
As change and innovation are the key drivers in the global business environment, there’s the rush and excitement of creating and capturing new opportunities around the world. In order to achieve organizational performance and international market success, leaders and teams face the challenge of effective collaboration across functions and cultures. Whether public or private, international organizations face the growing need to connect local voices to global actions. So how can we facilitate global collaboration today and into the future?
Living in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world provides the opportunity to learn and benefit from a wealth of diverse perspectives and practices. Yet this potential is not fully optimized within our communities and organizations. Time, power, distance, and misalignment contribute to failed collaborations. The outcome? A lack of innovation, efficiency, performance, and results. Traveling around the world, it has been interesting to witness the collaborative needs of poor and wealthy communities who need to connect with a global network, solving problems as diverse as education access and professional development to customer solutions and international market strategies.
There is a demand for more inclusion, transparency, and knowledge-sharing to make collaboration a reality. When organizations prepare for strategic planning sessions, there should be a co-creation process that allows for shared strategy-making. Engaging cross-cultural and cross-functional team members allows for a diversity of knowledge and ideas that enrich the dialogue. In evaluating research and practice, consider how global collaboration is enhanced through a focus on five factors:
1. Inclusive Leadership
In an increasingly networked and collaborative environment, there is a need for inclusive leadership that inspires new ideas and facilitates knowledge-sharing among diverse groups. Leadership is more about inspiring collaboration through behaviors that are empowering, inclusive, communicative, and directive. Leaders need to master the art of facilitation in order to promote open dialogue and knowledge-sharing in a complex multicultural environment.
2. Participative Strategy-making
The art of listening to local market voices requires openness and responsiveness in order to integrate and optimize diverse perspectives. There needs to be a dynamic interchange between global and local needs. Rather than pushing ideas and fixed strategies from global to local, there needs to be a co-creation or strategy-making process that starts with a local perspective in order to shape the global vision and strategy. Consider how recognition, responsiveness, and engagement can accelerate project collaboration for team members around the world.
3. Global Innovation Culture
Through research with multinational organizations, my findings consistently showed the necessity of three values for creating a global innovation culture in an organization: Cultural empathy through culturally diverse talent and teamwork; Creativity through ideas and initiative-taking; and Collaboration through transparency and open communication. How does the organizational culture nurture and support these values?
4. Knowledge-sharing Structure
There is the constant struggle to move beyond complex organizational structures and layers in order to effectively collaborate and create solutions in a more agile and responsive way. Organizations are building knowledge platforms and networks to simplify worldwide communications yet they are not optimizing technologies that nurture conversations from every location in the world. How can the knowledge platform and communication technologies facilitate local knowledge-sharing for global initiatives?
5. Interactive Dialogue
The world of social media and online technologies has opened many doors for communicating across borders. Yet when it comes to trust-building and collaboration, interpersonal communication and on-site team-building are ultimately the most effective in creating strong relations among diverse groups. Social networking, knowledge-sharing, and cross-cultural learning are key ingredients. Consider how to promote an interactive dialogue that can facilitate the sharing of local market knowledge, cross-cultural understanding and idea creation.
Leaders, teams, and organizations have the opportunity to create an environment filled with inspiration and innovation. Multicultural collaboration brings new discoveries and insights through an open mindset, inclusive dialogue, and a continuous quest for solving problems that matter on our planet. Local knowledge and voices are essential for understanding international customers and succeeding in international markets. In navigating a turbulent and changing global marketplace, greater attention is required for creating meaningful change through leaders and collaborators that celebrate and optimize cultural diversity.
We’re born into groups, we live in groups and everything of value is always in groups. No-one’s ever achieved anything on their own.” So says Maxime N.C.King Senior Partner AFA, collaboration expert and founder of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Foundation.
It’s heady stuff. But his pronouncement, on the perennial value of humans collaborating or as Maxime N.C. King defines it: working with someone to produce something, will certainly ring true for businesses.
For while collaboration might be as old as humanity itself it’s never been more important in the world of work, says Maxime. “I don’t come across many businesses these days where the CEO or senior leadership team doesn’t believe that the next stage of their growth requires a massive increase in collaboration,” he says. “A lot of senior leaders feel they’ve exhausted the gains they can get from driving change in a silo and squeezing out efficiencies.”
The global, fast-moving, complex and service-driven world we now inhabit brings collaboration to the fore. But it also makes it more challenging.
“Although teams that are large, virtual, diverse, and composed of highly-educated specialists are increasingly crucial for challenging projects, those same four characteristics make it hard for teams to get anything done,” they write. “To put it another way; the qualities required for success are the same qualities that undermine success.”
Leaders must therefore help people get to know and trust each other, she says. On day one you may have brought together some marketing people and scientists, so it’s diversity of disciplines. By day two they’ve started to get to know each other and it’s ‘we’re the old guys, they’re the kids’. Now diversity is age-related and there’s a fault line around that. By day three they’ve started to talk politics…”
The crucial element is time.. It takes time for at least superficially different people to get comfortable with each other. “If you have a crisis where you need a rapid solution do not pull out the 10 smartest people if they don’t know each other, “They won’t have time to form a relationship.”