What’s wrong with the world? Can you see it in this clip?

Watch the clip and see if you can work out what’s wrong with the world…

Recently, while searching for video for our new website, this clip was the best we could find.  I thought I’d found what we’d needed in finally locating a globe that didn’t start and end on the USA or Europe, only to discover some fairly significant issues.  Did you notice them? Tasmania is missing, as is half of Indonesia, and some rather strange things have happened to the Malaysian peninsula.

compass_imageIt is all too easy to overlook the local, or to define the world in the eyes of the beholder with scant regard to the ‘detail’ on the ground.  What did you do when you looked at the map?  Typically we first locate our home.  Once we have oriented ourselves, only then do we scan the periphery and ‘other’ spaces.  If our home space isn’t accurately defined, recognised, acknowledged and respected we turn off, log off, or react with anger.  Our respect for those who have ignored or misrepresented us is greatly diminished.  We can feel ‘unseen’ and invisible in the eyes of the other.

When operating globally it is critical we recognise, engage with and respect the local.  This does not only require defining the ‘boundaries’ accurately and seeing what is local, but engaging with local perspectives, opinions and ensuring collaborative and two-way engagement.  Such engagement enables honest feedback and the challenging of (mis) perceptions and an essential education on what’s really going on at the local level.

As was discovered by the US forces in Afghanistan, and as is so often discovered by multinational companies attempting to sell standard products in local markets,  the local matters.  The capacity to ensure local participation, engagement, collaboration and partnership can make or break a mission, project or business.  Skills in intercultural collaboration, cross-cultural engagement and partnership are critical and must be front and centre of any effective global/local engagement.

Getting Diversity Right – It’s not just about the numbers

So often, the focus of ‘getting diversity right’ is about the numbers. Yet, we often forget that it’s not just the numbers which matter – it’s the interaction, collaboration and capacity to engage and achieve results among people from diverse backgrounds which matters.

Ian Dalton, Kirrilee Hughes and I at our session

I presented a session yesterday at the Australian International Education Conference, and was fortunate to attend another session on ‘Internationalising the Curriculum’. The conversation was vibrant, and highlighted the risk of just focusing on ‘the numbers’ to demonstrate internationalisation. It’s all too common to have huge numbers of international students from all over the world attending Australian universities, who can complete an entire degree with little or no interaction with fellow local students. The challenge with an internationally diverse group is to ensure we don’t end up with a ‘classroom of tribes’ where the Indian students sit together, the locals from the private school who know each other sit together, the Chinese from Hong Kong are at another table and also separate from the Mainland Chinese, with little or no interaction between groups. In such an ‘international’ classroom, global mobility does little to expand intercultural engagement or understanding, and can actually reinforce stereotypes of other groups.

One of the key challenges of getting diversity right, is to enable and facilitate the expansion of interactions beyond one’s own comfort zone and in-group. It’s not enough to simply reach ‘the numbers’ and assume internationalisation has therefore occurred. Intercultural learning, collaboration and engagement is a process of learning, reflection and challenging of stereotypes and assumptions. Intercultural capability requires the capacity to engage with others, to understand their world-view and perspective, and to demonstrate the behavioural flexibility to negotiate differences and find common-ground. These skills are the ones which make the difference whether working in international business, or with people from diverse backgrounds at home.

Hosting events for HE Yingluck Shinawatra Prime Minister of Thailand

What a week! As National President of the Australia Thailand Business Council, I was involved in many of the events regarding the visit of HE Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand. It all kicked off with a media interview with ABC and progressed to lunch at Parliament House.  Julia Gillard was hosting, it was great to see two women leaders for a change, and equally great to see so many friends in the Australia-Thailand relationship in one place.

Next stop was Canberra airport – nearly didn’t make it back to co-host the dinner with Jennie Lang from the Asia Society.  Our plane had a broken propeller and we were all disembarked.  A highly surreal moment on the tarmac, calling the Thai delegation to see if we could get a ride on the PM’s plane, only to discover we wouldn’t make it, and chatting to the US Ambassador and other business and government reps about plan B.  Fortunately Qantas came through and the next flight was ok, a dear client provided an express lift straight to the hotel and made it with 5 mins to spare.


The dinner was a whirlwind, HE Yingluck is a dynamo, and was keen to meet lots of representatives of the Thai -Australia Business relationship.  The PM was accompanied by 70 leading Thai business people and four senior ministers, and it was a delight to meet so many strong advocates of collaboration.

On Tuesday,  I was MC for the BOI ‘Unbeatable Thailand Seminar’ with the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary General of the Thailand Board of Investment and some great speakers from business and the National Economic and Social Development Board.  Some fabulous case studies on the restructuring of Australian businesses to make the most of the ‘Asian Century’ and better position themselves to thrive in the changing economic context.  The study of the Australian Business experience in Thailand presented by John Andersen, President of AustCham Thailand was also striking for its positive outlook.

Thailand invests nearly $5 bn in Australia and we invest only $1.9 billion in reverse.  Thailand and Australia have two of the more resilient economies in the world, and it makes sense to further develop opportunities in a Southeast Asian region destined for significant future growth.  The economic turmoil and declining markets of the past day heighten the importance of focusing on our own region and the opportunities provided there.  I am looking forward to hosting a Boardroom lunch tomorrow with Asialink in Melbourne at Baker & Mackenzie to hear from Australian Ambassador James Wise regarding his insights and reflections on the visit.