Business Insights

Topical Perspectives in Business and Management

Improving Global Innovation Performance Through Multicultural Collaboration

As change and innovation are the key drivers in the global business environment, there‚Äôs 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 ideation 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. 

Karina R. Jensen, author of Leading Global Innovation: Facilitating Multicultural Collaboration and International Market Success is an international management consultant, professor and facilitator with 20 years of experience in launching business and education initiatives across cultures.

Book_Leading Global Innovation