There’s a shift in perspective among forward thinking individuals and businesses. It is only growing everyday, as we hear of news about huge corporations expanding aggressively abroad.
This expansion is not new. Multinational companies have been here for decades if not centuries. What is new is the heavy investment happening abroad and the reorientation of business strategy from possessing a home focus, to a transformation into a true global enterprise.
Companies with a “home” focus serve mostly domestic consumers, with some activity happening abroad. In these organizations, resources and manufacturing still happen primarily in the home region. A true global enterprise is one in which resources and networks between global offices are scaled and operations are intertwined toward optimal efficiency. Resources in the form of goods, talent and operations come from various locations where the optimal efficiency is achieved; wherein production and revenues are maximized. In between a “home” organization and the global enterprise lies multinational companies, as they have operated in the last several decades. The big difference between multinational companies and global enterprises is found mainly in how they leverage their operations. In the latter, maximization of value is achieved with the least amount of resources, and these resources do not have to come from the closest office to the consumer base. For example, Amazon customer service serves customers from all over the world, and a customer in one part of the world may speak with a representative in another, even if Amazon has a closer customer service team in the region in which the customer is based.
Last year, there was an NPR piece about the global generation. This generation is the one that I am a part of, and what was striking to me about the piece is not the shift in orientation of young individuals to a more global world, but that it was news to begin with. I grew up in a family where both of my parents packed their bags to follow their ambitions, going from their rural upbringing in the Philippines to what was perhaps the most foreign and isolating location for them at the time: the Middle East, where they met. My father moved back to Manila with us when I was 11, and a few years later, as I was about to become a teenager, my mother lived in Scotland. Yet another few years later, both of my parents decided to completely uproot the family and move them to another part of the world: the United States. The idea of a grand world was something that I already knew, but became more real to me as I sat on a plane that traced 7,300 miles of palpable distance, as if there was a geometric compass that repositioned me in a different part of the world. And this repositioning of location, status and circumstance, has changed the course of my life. A global orientation was not only a requirement, it was the only way to make sense of my then newly local circumstances.
I am always asked where I’m from. Especially in Chicago, since a majority of time, I’m the only one who looks, acts and speak differently (the Midwest has not achieved diversity comparable to the coastal areas in the U.S.). My first instinct is Los Angeles. They would probe further, their eyes asking the question “But where are you really from?”, which I find amusing. I grew up in Manila, I would say. Then they say “Oh!” as if the great mystery of the universe has been revealed to them. (Some are even suspicious when I say I’m from Los Angeles– which is bewildering and reflective of how much exposure they’ve had with places other than their own). Home to me is not a physical location, but a concept; wherever my immediate family is at the moment, that is where home is. Even if it’s a place I’ve never been to before, that is still where home is.
To this day, I only feel at home with people who have a global orientation, because I’ve found that these people possess a better perspective on things, gratitude for the opportunities that have paved the way, and culturally sensitive to local and foreign individuals. I see a future for myself living in multiple continents, and everyday I work on something that brings me closer to that vision. It is fascinating, overwhelming and comforting to know that there exists a world larger than the circles in which we currently live. No matter how your circle is big in your country, it is small in relation to the environment outside, the complexity of which seems unfathomable, and the networks seem impenetrable.
I am excited for the future, and the various projects I will encounter abroad if I continue to pursue the train of my curiosity. I don’t know exactly when I will take a one-way ticket to live in another part of the world, but I have a feeling it will happen very soon.