An International State of Mind:

For those of us who are lucky enough to be born, live and work in the United States, thinking globally or Internationally does not come easy. There are a number of reasons for this. The U.S. is one of the largest, most populated and, in the last 100 years, most successful and dominating economic country in the world. There are surveys showing that most Americans believe Columbus’ discovery in 1492, is the most significant event in all of world history. Europeans list the birth of Christ.

We also, as a nation, can name Britain’s William and Kate in a photo but not that lady who currently runs Germany, one of the other major countries of the world. When offered a globe we would have better chance shooting it through a basketball hoop than finding the Indian ocean, Iceland or any country in Africa. The bulk of our news is local and national and only now, with cable, have people accidentally flipped to the UK’s BBC. We often learn about the outside world often because of the media’s endless coverage of natural disasters like Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. Or once upon a time, by watching Lance Armstrong ride a bike all over Europe.

And we are blessed with so many great travel choices in the U.S., that travel elsewhere is a distant second. Now many colleges are encouraging a session abroad, which helps. But our almost total use of English for everything, the lack of serious second language studies, and our unwillingness to move to metrics does not help us feel comfortable out there in, the  non-American version of civilization.

Having spent so much time with Europeans doing Lunches and Dinners and occasionally, real business, you learn that they, and probably most of developed Asia, view all this much differently. Most European countries mandate serious language studies. Schools in Sweden require English from first grade through high school. Young people in Europe and Asia all recognize our current and recent past Presidents’ names and pictures. Our athletes like Michael Jordan are known everywhere.

Families also vacation in other counties. Young people look for any excuse to travel outside their own nation and and everyone really wants to visit the U.S. which often means Disney World or New York City.

So how do U.S. business people and companies develop an International state of mind? A state of mind which, with the rapid growth in places like China, may be critical.

In my book, The Business Zoo, we will examine how the private Donn Corporation developed a very successful and wide ranging International business that grew to over 25% of the total company and was very profitable. We will also look at why many larger U.S. firms struggle to be more International. Along the way we will share specific recipes for success and cover some interesting failures as well. You can learn lessons from both.

Young people today going into almost any type of organization or business need to develop an International state of mind. Our world is only getting smaller. And I will guarantee you that young people in the rest of the world, including Chile, are already more global in their views and experiences. It’s a dog eat dog world out there and like in the wild, only the strong and Internationally focused will survive!