Leading Global Innovation for International Market Success

January Event Review: “Leading Global Innovation for International Market Success” with Dr. Karina Jensen, Founder, Global Minds Network

By Dan Galatin

Karina Jensen gave a fascinating talk on how to work effectively across languages and cultures to develop products that are successful in markets around the world.  Karina began by describing the challenges of multicultural collaboration, including differences in time zone, language and regional priorities.  Product plans that are dictated to regional organizations by headquarters are unlikely to succeed – they too often lack the correct concepts and designs that can connect with local customers.  Without effective global collaboration, planning, marketing, operational efficiency and sales execution are all likely to suffer.

In order to collaborate more effectively, product leaders need to build trust across the global team and ensure that there’s sufficient participation and knowledge sharing around the world.  Differences in culture always have an effect on global teamwork.  In her research, Karina found that three main elements of successful collaboration in the face cultural differences are vision, dialog, and space.

By vision, Karina means setting leadership and strategy.  The purpose of leadership is to facilitate creativity, innovation, strategy, validation, and execution.  Often, there is a great deal of knowledge distributed around the world that could be utilized in the front-end stages of creation and planning, but leadership teams at global headquarters don’t tap into it.  Local teams are involved in execution, but not as often in ideation, planning and validation.  Some organizations are trying to evolve: for example, local leaders at Philips are encouraged to start planning concepts in collaboration with global leadership.

Dialog is necessary to ensure that local teams can share their knowledge.  Knowledge sharing is very different across cultures.  In North America and Europe, this communication can be direct in nature, but in Latin America and Asia, knowledge-sharing can be more like story-telling.  In certain parts of Europe and Asia, knowledge is power, and sharing too much would be considered a loss of power and expertise.  One must consider how to create a space in which the global team feels safe sharing ideas and knowledge.  Different cultures have varying degrees of comfort with open brainstorming, sharing new ideas, and providing criticism.  In order to create collaborative dialog, we must all become better listeners.  Companies are looking at building knowledge platforms and ways to share knowledge interactively online.  BMW, Cisco and Adobe are examples of organizations that use technological innovations to build more effective platforms for collaboration.

The last element of successful collaboration is space: making sure that there is opportunity for creativity by local teams and the opportunity to share knowledge across teams.  For example, Siemens has developed a platform to optimize team knowledge throughout the world, and the company encourages teams to submit ideas for new projects.  Wipro has created “24-hour pods” of workers from around the world to solve a problem within a short period of intensive collaboration.

Karina concluded by recommending best practices for setting vision, encouraging dialog, and establishing space for collaboration.  She encouraged everyone in the audience to consider how to map these drivers to their own projects.

Dan Galatin has over 20 years of combined experience in product management and software engineering.  He is Director of Communications for the SVPMA and can be contacted at dgalatin@yahoo.com.