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The world? It flat, oui!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

All yuh read de book The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman? Read it. Friedman looks at the way the world has come full circle and flattened again, giving us access via technology, migration, politics and much more. 


As a strategist (I do have a day job!), one of my unique selling points is my global perspective, having had exposure in several industries including energy, pharmaceuticals, and my ultimate favourite—telecommunications. I’ve worked in markets from London go east, and let me tell you, it’s a big world out there! 


My curiosity, however, was always fuelled by a hunger to know more about the world. 


I honed my thinking into a tool armed with the standards that existed internationally and tried wherever possible to integrate the same ideas into whatever I was working on here. This was until I left for London in 2004. 


Almost immediately my exposure widened and so did my curiosity. I remember meeting someone from Madagascar. I was like whoa! Questions like ah true maco, although I prefer the term journalist. Every day became a window into something new. My clients were from Europe, Eurasia, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. 


It is my Trini personality that allowed me always to go deeper than client relations. I made friends with whom I learned from. Cultural ideals, shopping recommendations, where to get a real Italian pizza (I miss you, Gloria!), how to say “Babe” in Romanian (right, Erika!), but most importantly, how the world worked. 


So here’s my question: Does one have to actually travel overseas regularly and extensively to truly gain a global perspective? I don’t think so; although I can see why most of you may disagree. 


One does not need to leave our sunny shores to grasp a global perspective of any kind. Okay. I take that back. When it comes to cultural experiences such as food, the weather, architecture and much more—yeah, you have to be there. 


There is nothing that technology can do to replace smell, taste and touch. However, for everything else, the good ole WWW can surely fill the gap. Our access to information is infinite. 


When I was in both primary and secondary school, these folded brochures would go around allowing you to apply for a pen pal in any country. 


The service (which I am now extremely curious to revisit and ascertain how it really worked—anyone remember it? Tweet me! @mimieng77) would then submit your details and if you were lucky someone would write you back from the country you chose, introducing themselves as your new pen pal. 


If my memory serves me right, no one ever put down Angola or Guinea-Bissau. Always the US, the UK or another West Indian island. 


My point? Sometimes I wonder if we are limiting ourselves; if we are not willing to try because we are stuck here in sweet T&T. I challenge each of you to test my theory. Think of something you’re working on? Then widen the angle. What type of company do you work for? What products/services do your company sell/promote? So let’s say you’re in the marketing or communications department of an energy company.


Let’s widen the angle some more. I like to use a theory Coca-Cola uses (or used) namely, “Now, New, Next.” 


So the Now. Let’s look at where T&T sits. GDP-wise. We’re close to Estonia, El Salvador, Paraguay and Estonia. And where do we want to be? At the top. We should always aim high. So that takes us to the USA, China, Japan, Germany, France and Brazil. 


I’d aim to make a contact in a company similar to mine, in each of these countries, while doing research on the marketing and overall activities of each. Soon you will have a list of counterparts in similar companies with the exact same job title as you. Reach out to them. Exchange case studies and conference recommendations. Check out their Facebook pages and see what they’re tweeting.


This moves us on to the New. Look into what each of these companies is doing now. For example, check out how Estonia’s Eesti Energia is using its oil shale reserves and marvel at the technology they are developing in that area. See how they are innovating their space in the global marketplace. 


Can you do the same? Compare that to what your company and, by extension, what you are doing through your role here in Trinidad. Can you apply any of these ideas to what you are doing? 


My curiosity was lucky, I guess, that I got to see many of these things first-hand; but seeing the Rasgas HQ in Qatar with my own two eyes didn’t really make a difference. 


I could have gained the same insight via phone or Skype call and learned all I needed sur le Internet. 


Still, seeing the world was awesome. Can’t deny that. Reach out and you’ll find what’s out there, even if you can’t get there.


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