Moving From Global to Multicultural Innovation

The inability of organizations to facilitate multicultural collaboration can affect innovation in terms of concept design, strategy, operational efficiency, customer connection and sales performance in international markets. There are many stories of failed concepts and launches that have been re-told around the world, from hilarious translations to questionable product features… New innovations demand consideration of their cultural and local fit for consumers in both mature and emerging markets.

Yet culture is missing from the global innovation equation. Current theory and practice tend to focus on culture and innovation as two separate categories that do not necessarily integrate in the international business environment. There are three common views: 1) culture is ignored by using universal innovation models that assume global application; 2) a dominant cultural perspective is applied due to research and practice views from one country or region; and 3) culture is treated as a separate topic in that we are told to understand cultural dimensions and manage differences rather than understand multicultural collaboration and optimize cultural diversity for innovation.

A global and dynamic business environment places an increased demand for multicultural innovation in order to ensure organizational performance and international market success. Leaders are facing the challenges of navigating a networked world where collaboration is the norm. This requires new competencies for leaders who will need to serve as orchestrators of global innovation across cultures and functions. If you’re responsible for international programs, projects, products, or services, how are you facilitating multicultural collaboration within the global innovation cycle? Consider some key phases that are critical to engagement:

Ideation – How is the creative process optimized for different cultural contexts and how are new ideas encouraged and shared by team members in local markets?

Planning – How is your organization engaging in shared strategy-making through cross-cultural learning and knowledge-sharing?

Validation – How is your organization responding to cultural differences and local customer preferences when developing and testing new concepts?

Execution – How are you creating recognition and visibility for multicultural collaboration with team members around the world?

Culturally diverse views bring valuable insights to local problems and issues that are pertinent to solving international challenges. In today’s constantly changing business environment, we need to pay more attention to local voices in order to orchestrate innovation around the world. Global innovation is thus transforming into a multicultural kaleidoscope with continuously changing patterns, shapes, and colors. What is your vision of innovation and how does culture play a part in your kaleidoscope?

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