Think Global, Innovate Local

25 Octo­ber 2017 | Think­ing in New Ways

Glob­al needs. In a recent post for the Druck­er Forum [link], I wrote about a way for any com­pa­ny, team, or indi­vid­ual to begin nextsens­ing [link]:

Many econ­o­mists speak of GDP, the gross domes­tic prod­uct of a coun­try; a few econ­o­mists even talk about the GWP, the gross world prod­uct. Yet, these con­cepts are num­bers-based, not human-based. We can change this. What’s need­ed is a new index that mea­sures the most immi­nent needs of the world and makes it a com­mon­place con­cept, a “Gross Needs Index” (GNI), if you will. But we need more than a list; that is just a tar­get for peo­ple to aim at.

What’s need­ed most is the immer­sion of every­one into an appre­ci­a­tion of the pos­i­tive role of enter­prise in soci­ety and how to use the tools of entre­pre­neur­ship. Where to start? The answer is easy: any­where.

Glob­al needs. I find very few who are will­ing to view their own busi­ness­es via that unique lens. And while there are com­pa­nies ded­i­cat­ed to such a point of view, not that many cor­po­ra­tions are will­ing to think along these lines. For exam­ple, you have to admire the work of the Glob­al Needs Foun­da­tion [link], “a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion work­ing to end extreme pover­ty in the world. We believe that edu­ca­tion is key to empow­er­ing the poor around the world and to erad­i­cate pover­ty at its roots.” Then there’s “Glob­al Cit­i­zen [link],” described as “a com­mu­ni­ty of peo­ple like you… Peo­ple who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest chal­lenges. Extreme pover­ty ends with you.” Then, there’s the all­nurs­es web­site, which tries to bring one set of glob­al needs to the organisation’s doorstep: “How can nurs­ing address and improve glob­al health­care needs?” [link]

Such enti­ties are altru­is­tic and admirable. They have a spe­cial place in world affairs, and they should not be dis­missed. And they are a good place for any­one to start to think glob­al­ly.

Relat­ed­ly, when I look at the web­site spon­sored by DowDuPont [link], I am stirred by the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties that exist for the world of busi­ness to take on a world of immense needs. To be clear, DowDuPont is a for-prof­it, pub­licly-trad­ed enter­prise [link] that oper­ates inter­na­tion­al­ly. Its home page makes clear what its mission/vision is: “Work­ing close­ly with our cus­tomers we deliv­er prod­ucts and solu­tions that cre­ate val­ue and com­pet­i­tive advan­tage while pos­i­tive­ly impact­ing the world we live in. Col­lec­tive­ly, our efforts have last­ing results, cre­at­ing high­er per­for­mance for our cus­tomers and reshap­ing the world around us to build a bet­ter future for every­one.” Yet what I admire most about its sci­ence and sus­tain­abil­i­ty page [see link above] is the analy­sis it has giv­en to the con­cept of glob­al needs. Dow lists (and dis­cuss­es) eight areas of con­cern to the com­pa­ny:

  • Build­ing & Con­struc­tion
  • Con­sumer & Lifestyle
  • Ener­gy & Cli­mate Change
  • Food & Agri­cul­ture
  • Health & Well­ness
  • Infra­struc­ture
  • Trans­porta­tion
  • Water

You may look at the site and see only the “sell, sell, sell” side of DowDuPont (@DowDuPontCo). I want to be more gen­er­ous, although I won­der if DowDuPont real­ly has all of its 55,000 employ­ees think­ing about what they, in their respec­tive busi­ness capac­i­ties, can do to address any of these eight focus areas. Because that is the point, isn’t it? If a com­pa­ny as large as this one can bring the atten­tion, the expe­ri­ence, the smarts, the car­ing, and the imag­i­na­tion of 55,000 peo­ple to a dis­tinct list of glob­al needs, then the plan­et shows promise of being a bet­ter world tomor­row.

Glob­al needs. In my expe­ri­ence, most com­pa­nies tend to think local and inno­vate local. They are myopic and have it back­wards. The trick is to think glob­al­ly and then act from what­ev­er base you have. The Amer­i­can pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt said it nice­ly: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” My chal­lenge then if for every­one read­ing this post to pre­pare your own list of glob­al needs and then to mull the end­less list of pos­si­ble ways you or your firm could start to address just one of those needs. Put anoth­er way, I won­der what oth­er web­sites by oth­er firms would look like if they, too, took on a glob­al focus.

Note: The Druck­er Forum holds its ninth annu­al meet­ing in Vien­na in mid-Novem­ber. Richard Straub delin­eates per­fect­ly what peo­ple will be dis­cussing at that time. Read his short essay, “Growth & Inclu­sive Pros­per­i­ty” here [link].

Joseph PistruiJoseph Pistrui (@nextsensing) is Pro­fes­sor of Entre­pre­neur­ial Man­age­ment at IE Busi­ness School in Madrid. He also leads the glob­al Nextsens­ing Project, which he found­ed in 2012.

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