Gaining a Global Understanding

We must learn to think globally because our way of life depends on it.

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It’s no secret that we are in a global economy and it will only accelerate as technology continues to level the barriers that previously made global trade difficult. Satellites, fiber optic cable across the oceans, next day air, e-mail and the Internet have served to make the other side of world as connected as the next state. Those who are global thinkers and develop an understanding of the world’s various cultures and learn how to participate will see new opportunities open up to them. Those who choose to ignore the flattening of the world will become increasing “ignorant” and will suffer the consequences … just like the people who thought CNC was a fad.

We as Americans are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to being global thinkers as opposed to most any other developed country in the world. We can drive to the next state and have no problem speaking the language, knowing the laws, understanding the culture, currency and the type of government that exists. We have been very fortunate to be in a huge addressable market that all speaks English and does business the same way, under the same laws. The downside is that we were never forced to think globally or study other cultures, governments or societal motivations. As the “most powerful nation in the world,” we expected the world to conform to our way of doing business, our language and our culture, and they did. People from all over the world learned how to do business with us and few of us have learned how to do business with them. This could haunt us going forward.

Europe is a collection of nearly contiguous countries that are about the size of large states in the U.S. There are many languages present throughout Europe and each country has a different government, different laws, are culturally quite different and until a few years ago used a different currency. In Europe, driving from one country to the next is like Americans driving from one state to the next. I have friends in Germany that within a few hours can drive to ski on the Alps in Switzerland, go biking in Italy, tour castles in Austria or go for cheap shopping in Czechoslovakia. I used Europe as the example, but the same applies in Asia, Latin America and Africa. It is no wonder that we Americans have a hard time understanding global issues and are often thought of as “ignorant” by those who grew up in a multi-cultural environment and speak several languages.

We must all work to broaden our minds and the minds of our children to develop an understanding, appreciation and respect for our neighbors all around the world. Obviously, the best way to transform your thinking is to travel abroad and spend time in other countries. Yes, it will be more expensive than driving to the next state for vacation, but I promise you the experience you gain will be priceless.

I understand not everyone can travel abroad, but there are plenty of other things you can do such as reading a book set another in culture, for example The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. You can study a foreign language, read the international section of the newspaper, take in an exchange student, visit ethnic restaurants, watch foreign sub-titled films, etc. Take the opportunity to ask non-Americans you encounter about their perceptions of the differences between their country and ours, ask them what they miss about their country, they will be more than happy to tell you all about their “mother country”.

Learn to think globally, our way of life depends on it.

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