“Cosmopolitans”+”Locals” = “global team” ** updated

A quick alert for readers, especially those of us who espouse the various forms of collaborative working and online-mediated teams to operate globally.

Every so often, research revisits “What makes a global team work?” and Wharton Business School have done just that. A lot of their conclusions relate to established cultural assumptions, and issues like rotating meetings so it’s not always the same people who have to be in a 3 a.m. Most of us say “Sure, we know that”; but it’s useful to have them restated in what is, in this article, quite a concise summary at its close.

But there is one concept that might be less familiar. Global enterprise values people with experience of working in different regions, different languages and different cultures; and rightly so, even if the company’s lingua franca is English (ok, I used a Latin phrase deliberately there!). Wharton call these people Cosmpolitans.

But the article re-emphasises that a successful team also values the local. Of course, nothing guarantees success and operating across boundaries can be divisive as well as beneficial. But Wharton believe that when cosmopolitans sit down alongside people with deep and long experience of their local market, and each values the other’s contribution, the synergy at least enhances the likelihood of successful outcomes.

You don’t have to agree; but I’d recommend reading the article for a reminder of some fundamental truths.

[Note added 11th Sept: there’s a related comment from the British Computer Society today. It’s a case study from a global engineering group for whom sustainability is part of their business and therefore reducing their carbon footprint – travelling less, in effect – is crucial. Significant that this should appear as we reach the anniversary of “9/11”. I’ll just quote their conclusion: The old adage of ‘think global, act local’ is … replaced by ‘create global, deliver local’. And collaboration is the key to cracking this new world order.

(Two posts in one day … must be catching up!)

• ‘Locals,’ ‘Cosmopolitans’ and Other Keys to Creating Successful Global Teams, Knowledge@Wharton, 2 Sept 2009
Globalisation, innovation and collaboration, BCS, Sept 2009

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