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Creating global innovation success through multicultural collaboration

November 7, 2017


It’s time to change the world with an innovative concept. The executive and management teams have designed a global innovation strategy that will be a game changer… With launch celebrations and fireworks around the globe, the new concept is expected to be a star performer that will accelerate international revenue and attract demand worldwide. Yet regional and local teams show a lack of enthusiasm and support, while local customers are not connecting with the new concept. As international sales plunge downward, teams across the world are asking – Why? Pourquoi? Por qué? Warum? なぜ? 为什么? ?لماذا ا Зачем ?

These are scenarios that I’ve observed all too often through my corporate, consulting and research projects when moving from concept to market. International organizations who are striving for mastery in global innovation have one challenge in common: effective collaboration across cultures and functions. If you’re responsible for international programs, projects, products, or services, how are you facilitating innovation and collaboration around the world?

Living in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world provides the opportunity to learn and benefit from a wealth of culturally diverse perspectives and practices. Yet this potential is not fully optimized within our communities and organizations. The challenges of time, trust, distance, and communication contribute to failed collaborations. The outcome? A lack of creativity, innovation, performance, and results for international markets.

A global and dynamic business environment is quickly evolving with changing needs where innovation is a constant. Leaders are facing the challenges of navigating a multicultural and digitally connected work environment where collaboration is the norm. The acceleration of competition from diverse international markets requires a responsive organization. New innovations demand consideration of their cultural and local fit for consumers in mature and emerging markets. The outcome is an increased focus on multicultural collaboration in order to ensure organizational performance and international market success.

Then how will leaders, teams, and organizations develop the capabilities to collaborate in an increasingly multicultural and networked environment? My international studies of 200+ leaders and 45 multinational firms with headquarters based in Asia, Europe, and North America have uncovered new capabilities and competencies for leading and facilitating global innovation and multicultural collaboration. When addressing global planning and execution for new concepts, the Multicultural Innovation Framework incorporates three collaboration drivers:

  • Vision – What is the role of global leadership and strategic co-creation? Leaders are increasingly required to serve as knowledge facilitators and innovation orchestrators, where strategic co-creation is a key collaboration vehicle for identifying and creating international market opportunities.
  • Dialogue – What is the process for global and local dialogue? Communication with multicultural teams demands increased engagement through social networking, knowledge-sharing, and cross-cultural learning.
  • Space – How does the organizational culture and team climate ensure an inclusive innovation environment worldwide? A global innovation culture shapes the organizational values while the innovation climate enables the network and connection to international customers and markets.

In order to develop and prepare leaders for the demands of facilitating and orchestrating global innovation, there needs to be greater emphasis on leadership and team development through social networking, knowledge-sharing, and cross-cultural learning. There will be a growing demand for competencies in multicultural innovation and collaboration. Global leadership skills that are noted as most critical yet leaders considered themselves least effective in include 1) Leading across countries and cultures, 2) intercultural communication within international business environments, 3) integration in intercultural or foreign environments, 4) leading across generations, and 5) fostering employee creativity and innovation (DDI 2014-15).

We live in a time where leaders and organizations can serve as powerful catalysts for change in creating a vibrant global community, where culturally diverse talent is celebrated rather than ignored. The future is approaching at a rapid pace, and organizations will need to optimize the collective intelligence of a global talent pool for meeting the demands of international customers and markets. In a constantly changing business environment, leaders will need to listen to local voices in order to facilitate and orchestrate innovation around the world.

Karina Jensen

Karina R. Jensen is a practice director at the Centre for Leadership and Effective Organisations and a professor of Global Innovation and Leadership at NEOMA Business School in France. She is also founder and managing director of Global Minds Network, a consulting and training firm.

An international management consultant, change facilitator, and educator with 20+ years of experience, she has launched and managed global products, services, and programs for leading multinational firms. Her recent book, Leading Global Innovation, presents a new framework for facilitating multicultural innovation and collaboration. Connect with Karina on LinkedIn, Twitter (@DrKarinaJensen) or



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