The Notion of Thinking Globally and Acting Locally
I had the privilege today of listening to knowledgeable and accomplished business leaders talk about the opportunities and challenges of regional economic development in southeast Wisconsin. As is probably true for most economic regions around the globe, the story was one of terrific potential and knotty problems. Most of the problems are related to an inability or unwillingness to collaborate.
The business community has long embraced the notion of thinking globally and acting locally. It’s a neat idea in our global environment and it promises big rewards. I’m not sure we know what it really means.
Public policy, often made by local municipalities for the benefit of its citizens, has had little reason, historically, to worry about globalization except for the way it has complicated everyone’s lives.
As I listened to both the opportunity of regional economic development and the challenges of convincing parochial entities to expand their thinking on a grand scale, I couldn’t help but wonder what we all need to learn in order to realize the success of any regional vision for the future?
I was thinking about the importance of things like trust, candor, patience, and the willingness to be influenced by different ideas and viewpoints. Self-management in tense situations would be useful. Critical thinking, genuine listening, and purposeful speaking are the stuff of progress. Do we know how to do these things?
The world as we know it today challenges us constantly. Most of us, when challenged, seek refuge in things we know to be safe and predictable. Friends, pets, TV shows, books, routines, you name it. Our ideal selves want to think in grand futuristic terms but we need the comfort of our everyday worlds and habits to feel safe.
The problem is that our vision and our comfort are often at spectacular odds! What do we need to learn to reconcile these odds in order to move forward?
For starters, I believe we need to learn to generate honest and practical information about the current state of affairs. Although this sounds like it should be a no-brainer, we have incredible amounts of information that are packaged, positioned, and presented to satisfy particular agendas or desired outcomes. We don’t trust it.
I believe we need time to digest facts, consider options, debate implications, and offer opinions after having had time and space to ponder. This is counter-culture.
I believe we need to understand our own quirks and foibles and why we sometimes jockey for position and power and other times go with the flow. We don’t take time to worry about this stuff—too much needs to get done now!
The three elements of Backbone that I wrote about in my book “How to Grow a Backbone: 10 Strategies for Gaining Power and Influence at Work” (ISBN#0-8092-2494-1) are Competence, Confidence, and Risk Taking. As we think about how to grow our way out of problems like poor economics, failing education systems, and unevenly distributed natural resources, I think it would be wise to think about something else. What skills (competence) do we need in order to build confidence to take the risks that are inevitable and critical to any economic expansion?