International Affairs Forum: Both your educational and professional backgrounds seem to emphasize the importance of intercultural communications. Considering one of the conference themes – global strategy and local execution – how integral do you find intercultural communications to be in the development of successful, new businesses? In the expansion of older ones in the process of updating their business models?
Sirin Koprucu: Communication is the foundation of all human interactions also in business. And communication is one of the three critical success factors along with identifying unique value proposition and creating the means of delivery of the proposition in business modeling. Communication can impact everything from brand awareness to building trust. Communication however differs across cultures. Cultural differences in communication can therefore impact everything from brand awareness to building trust locally, regionally and globally at organizational, customer, market and societal levels. One of the critical discussion points of the “Global Strategy and Local Execution” session will be how businesses in today’s interconnected world can develop a competitive advantage by investing in their human capital and helping them develop a Global Mindset® – a global leadership concept developed by Thunderbird School of Global Management and correlated with independent business performance indicators. Cultural awareness and intercultural empathy are critical elements of this concept.
IA-Forum: Considering your extensive experience in the pharmaceutical and health communications industries across diverse countries, what are the greatest challenges to the development of a business’s global mindset? In what ways, if any, does the culture or society of each country (for example, Turkey) impact the international reach and/or success of global marketing and branding projects?
Sirin Koprucu: The greatest challenge probably is the awareness that the Global Mindset needs to be developed as a competitive advantage within the internationally growing organization. Often businesses are very proud of their products and services, their organizational culture and reputation. However, they need to realize that when they enter new markets they enter “host” markets meaning business environments towards foreign businesses can change from one day to the next and that local customers, business partners and stakeholders may find different ways of use in the product or service, and they may like to experience these in different ways. Immediate and long-term success will depend on the trust the organization can build with these audiences as well as the local employees they can hire, inspire and lead. Integrating the Global Mindset into all aspects of business will help build trust at many levels and help achieve faster, more efficient and longer lasting results.
IA-Forum: What are the essential components of a successful global strategy?
Sirin Koprucu: Internationally growing organizations may have diverse strategic goals and competitive advantages. They should aim to assume leadership in areas they feel strongest. However, no matter what kind of leadership businesses strive for they need to pursue two critical strategic perspectives: 1) be trust oriented 2) develop the Global Mindset as a competitive advantage. The most important strategic goal needs to enter markets with highest levels of trust possible and continue building this trust at organizational, market and societal levels. Innovative business cultures, low employee turnover rates, growing brand loyalty, an increase in brand value, and a strengthening corporate reputation are all indicators of enhanced trust levels. Global Mindset skills will help leverage trust potentials in most optimum levels by enhancing analytical thinking, self-assurance, curiosity and emotional connection in addition to many other ways.
IA-Forum: Once a global strategy is crafted, what common challenges do businesses face in effectively implementing that strategy? How can newly global businesses better prepare to meet these challenges?
Sirin Koprucu: The most important success factor in developing the right strategy and executing it effectively is giving global and local professionals or in the case of smaller businesses, perhaps senior home country business teams and local market consultants the opportunity to develop strategy and tactics together. Otherwise, once all the effort is made to come up with the strategy, unless the strategy is based on sound research, the organization may encounter frictions between strategists and local market professionals, a slower market entry or worse, market withdrawal if the strategy was not informed enough. The second success factor is to develop global business within a system that allows evaluation – a business model. This will help fine-tune strategy and tactics. The third factor is open communications – ongoing communications between global or home country headquarters and local market professionals.
IA-Forum: Why is it crucial for businesses to grow their organizations in new markets? Why do expanding businesses need to define and understand factors that may reshape their markets? How can such businesses harness these changes and translate them into profitable, global strategies?
Sirin Koprucu: The population and income profiles in different countries pose new opportunities to businesses. Similarly, businesses in other countries may grow into unexpected competitors in one’s own backyard. Globalization is being facilitated by advancements in technology and transportation. It is fairly inevitable to be a visionary business owner and not to face global competition in today’s interconnected world. Therefore, thinking strategically while evaluating how strategy can be executed locally to serve local customers and societies and gaining their trust by delivering a promise in a most enjoyable relationship have gained in importance. Businesses need to understand consumer and stakeholder trends, analyze competition, select key markets, reflect on these prior to coming up with a vision and unique value proposition, understand the communication needs of key audiences, identify key required resources, valuable partners and analyze revenues vs. investments. We highly recommend detailed business modeling and human centered market research meaning an analysis of judgment and decision making to prepare for success in informed ways.
IA-Forum: StrategicStraits, in part, emphasizes the importance of implementing an education system that helps business leaders address the complexities of global business. What constitutes this education system? How does it hone leaders’ business skills, specifically in navigating international business straits?
Sirin Koprucu: Yes, we are able to develop a global leadership skills curriculum to build the most critical competitive advantage for internationally growing businesses which is their human capital advantage. All business decisions are made by humans. The strategic straits are “leadership decisions”, “organizational culture” and “customer orientation”. We believe that these three areas are the bottlenecks to success in international business because as you may realize they are related to all human actors in business. The Global Mindset concept developed by Thunderbird School of Global Management helps us help our clients navigate all these straits with confidence and finesse.
We are able to measure Global Mindset levels with an instrument called the Global Mindset Inventory. We identify strength and development areas for learners. We then can hold workshops or engage in coaching relationships to build on their strengths and help work on their development areas.
IA-Forum: How does StrategicStraits utilize global trends in order to recommend globally-minded business decisions for their clients? For example, how (if at all) does the significant population growth of young adults [under 30] in countries with developing economies affect branding recommendations?
Sirin Koprucu: We highly recommend conducting sound research on ways of judgment and decision making in target markets. This type of research can not only provide insight into “what to say” and “how to say” in all sorts of business communications but also provide insight into the localization of products and services. It can give input into new product development. It can be designed in ways that allow receiving feedback from key audiences. We also highly recommend learning more about local cultures and generational trends to gain a better understanding of markets. However, it is most helpful to be able to invest in customized research. It can be misleading to overgeneralize cultural information.
IA-Forum: What role can the arts play in intercultural communication and understanding? How does arts volunteerism benefit growing businesses? Which arts organizations has StrategicStraits partnered with (directly or indirectly) in the past?
Sirin Koprucu: The arts can play an extraordinary role in facilitating intercultural communications. It makes us sit back and listen or observe instead of talk. And typically, people discussing arts share the love of arts and hence have good common ground for building trust which is a good starting point if we consider that the business purpose of understanding and/or bridging cultural differences is typically building trust. For instance, if we assume the experience of coffee drinking as a form of arts, I have found that one of the funniest ways of reflecting on national cultures in the U.S. and Turkey is to show a cup of Turkish coffee and a cup of Starbucks coffee on a slide and ask the audience to reflect on how different ways of enjoying coffee can help identify cultural differences as well as similarities. People start talking and can’t stop. Don’t want to stop. It’s too much fun. Especially if there is actually coffee being brewed in the room…why not…
Therefore, we’ve created a program called Arts – A Global Connector at StrategicStraits through which we sponsor events where people learn about different cultures by experiencing the arts of that culture. I would especially like schools to be able to take advantage of this program. The program is still in its infant stage and we hope to see it grow.
This makes us all arts volunteers. An arts volunteer is a person who is passionate about arts and supportive of creativity. I think this is a very necessary field of volunteerism also considering the many stressful scenes of culture clashes in our world today. Often, people think that volunteers are only needed in health fields and social fields in these environments where people fight for survival or are under extreme stress. But somewhere out there, there is somebody singing quietly or saying the words of a poem or drawing something to express feelings, and then there is somebody listening, watching and asking for more and encouraging more – an arts volunteer…this is critical; arts volunteers can help people in mental distress situations sense that life still goes on as long as creativity goes on. There are also many studies on the impact of arts on the society and economy, But I’m not talking about utilizing the arts for community building. I know many colleagues do great work in this field. I think there is also space for just connecting and co-existing.
I got inspired for this vision by my initial volunteer work as a gift shop volunteer at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts prior to starting the Center’s Global Friends volunteer corp which aims to connect and celebrate cultures through arts volunteerism. We inspire each other and connect with arts volunteers around the world. The Kennedy Center has quite some expertise in arts volunteerism management, and we would like to be able to share this experience with international arts centers but at the same time learn about practices in other countries.
IA-Forum: How has StrategicStraits’ collaboration with such businesses as Aperian Global Corp. promoted gender inclusivity and equality as a standard practice of a successful business model? How are gender issues introduced in cultural sensitivity training workshops?
Sirin Koprucu: I have not collaborated with Aperian Global on gender issues. My work is more culture-general although I conduct some national culture-specific training and help clients utilize GlobeSmart, Aperian Global’s research on more than 90 countries. I believe that the key take-away from cultural awareness workshops are humility (self-awareness) and curiosity (about the other). This results in mutual understanding, enhanced levels of analytical thinking as well as business repertoire, and finally, in effectiveness and increased trust.
IA-Forum: In a world of increasingly dynamic and hypercompetitive markets, how can strategic planners use modern, scientific developments to produce novel business strategies? How can social media be used to further business strategy? Has the growth of modern technology in the last five years promoted “out of box” thinking and/or offered creative solutions to issues unique to multicultural businesses?
Sirin Koprucu: I partner with many expert colleagues ranging from cultural awareness to research and communications fields. The social media and Internet are certainly great sources of information and networking. However, to strive for fast, efficient and lasting results, I think investing in the right kind of research and performance metrics has gained significant importance in today’s dynamic and hypercompetitive markets. Being aware of the Global Mindset, conducting research on judgment and decision making, learning the critical market and industry trends, identifying unmet needs, developing a vision to start with the end in mind, being trust oriented and working with business models to be able to evaluate and reevaluate/fine are the key success factors for any business in pursuit of fast as well as long-term results.
Sirin Koprucu is an international business consultant, specializing on conducting business in European countries and the Middle East. She gained extensive experience in international business by working as a marketer and trainer in the pharmaceutical industry. The name of her company is StrategicStraits, Inc.. She provides organizational development and global project management services as well as various types of training for cultural awareness.
Ms. Koprucu will be leading a session, Global Strategy with Local Execution, at the upcoming Association for Strategic Planning Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., May 6-8.
Interview by Katherine Lugo.
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