How Trumps What

by Christopher Meyer on 12/08/2009

One of the challenges of leading in a wider world is that what is true at home is probably not as true, if at all, when you’re working wider.  For example, George W. Bush’s “cowboy” demeanor may have worked fine in Texas but it didn’t translate well beyond; especially in  Europe.  Search giant Google’s success in China against Baidu pales when compared to their strength in the U.S.

Working wider places a much higher dependence on pattern recognition skill than the knowledge you carry with you.  Understanding patterns enables you to leverage that knowledge, or find what knowledge is necessary.  McDonalds and Disneyland were far more successful in their foreign operations when they adopted local foods and customs to their respective “menus”.

Once you recognize a pattern, dig for the underlying drivers.  Think of these as the rocks that cause the swirls on the water’s surface.   Successful business leaders who work internationally learn this quickly as they cope with cultural differences.  Knowing what drives these behaviors enables you to create a common playing field all.  Once you have that, your ability to tap all the talent and resources skyrockets.  Without it, it’s a slog.

The implication is that leading in the wider world depends much more on observation and learning than existing knowledge and practices.  How trumps what.

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