Linda Archibald Friday, October 7, 2016
Malaysian-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs) aiming to be truly global companies must learn to move from an overly nationalistic mindset towards one that is more universal and global values-based.
“There is an over-emphasis on the roots. Roots are important, but strong branches are just as important for the tree to grow and reach further and higher,” says business creativity author and speaker Fredrik Haren.
Take the best of your own cultural roots and merge them with the best practices and values that can be found universally and you are on your way to global success.
He cited AirAsia Bhd as a Malaysian-based company that has successfully done so. They started out from day one not branding and positioning themselves as a Malaysian company per se but have gone on to become a global success because they have brought together the best global practices and standards and made it their own to gain a global appeal.
While the 20th century mantra has been “think global, act local”, Haren suggested a new paradigm: “Think human, act humane”.
The call is to get companies to find out how they can serve and cater for humanity by bringing the best from all over the world.
“Do the best thing because it is the best thing to do and the best way to do it, and not because it is the way of the country of origin,” he told an audience of 200 SME owners in his “One World, One Company” day-long session organised by Malaysian Institute of Management in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 4.
That is also the title of his latest book of the Swedish-born author and speaker. It outlines what it means to be a truly global company which was also made available for sale at the event, which ended with a book signing.
Among his other eight inspirational book titles is “The Idea Book” listed in “The 100 Best Business Books of All Time”.
Haren also quoted an example of some Swedish-based chefs who embarked on world tour — taking short stints in Paris, Italy, Japan and Sweden — to learn the best way to serve up cuisines from those various companies to become global chefs.
He said the single greatest stumbling block for Malaysian companies to becoming truly global companies is their focus on their own issues and problems on the local front. He acknowledges that it happens in many countries, but he noted that in Malaysia, particularly, they like to talk about that.
“And that drags you down. If you are an entrepreneur, I would just ignore that, and focus on what you do and do it the best you can,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview when met after the one-day session.
So what can Malaysian corporate leaders and captains of companies can do to steer towards this direction? Focus on the company’s advantages and strengths, and not be weighed down by the problems and challenges, he emphasised.
“Malaysian companies have some real strengths especially when it comes to embracing cultures — both Western and Eastern cultures, the Muslim culture as much the other cultures as well,” he said.
As for government-linked companies to thrive on the global front, he said it is important for the governments of countries of origin to disconnect themselves from those companies.
Government-owned companies, he acknowledged, will always be nationalistic. However, he advised them to focus on why they exist and their core business to excel on the global front.
“I wish the governments will disconnect themselves from these companies. It makes sense for them (to remain connected in the phase of the company’s existence). This will not only help the wellbeing of the company itself but on the long-run also benefit the country,” he said.
Haren also urged Asian business leaders to strike a balance between creative confidence and humility.
“A lot of the great footballers in the world are very cocky but the best ones are humble — for instance, (Argentina’s Lionel Andreas) Messi. Likewise, among tennis players, (Swiss’ Roger) Federer is very humble,” he added.
While humility is not necessarily a bad thing, it is important that one should not be humble to the point of apologising for being yourself, which is what Malaysians tend to do.
“So, Malaysians, you need to be more confident!” he said.