We live in an increasingly multicultural and networked world where innovation has the potential to transform lives from Austria to Zimbabwe. Leaders and teams are facing changing customer needs across cultures and geographies. If you’re responsible for international products, services, projects, or programs, how are you facilitating innovation and collaboration around the world?

The inability of organizations to facilitate multicultural collaboration can affect innovation in terms of concept design, strategy, operational efficiency, customer connection and sales performance in international markets. There are many stories of failed concepts, campaigns, and launches that have been re-told around the world, from hilarious translations to questionable product features. New concepts demand consideration of their cultural and local fit for consumers worldwide.

Yet culture is missing from the global innovation equation. Current practice tends to focus on culture and innovation as two separate categories that do not necessarily integrate in the business world. There are three common views: 1) culture is ignored by using universal innovation models that assume global application; 2) a dominant cultural perspective is applied due to research and practice views from one country or region; and 3) culture is treated as a separate topic in that we are told to understand and manage cultural differences rather than understand multicultural collaboration and optimize cultural diversity for innovation.

A global and dynamic business environment places an increased demand for multicultural innovation in order to ensure organizational performance and international market success. Leaders are facing the challenges of navigating a networked world where collaboration is the norm. This requires new competencies for leaders who will need to serve as facilitators and orchestrators of global innovation across cultures and functions. It also demands consideration of culturally diverse talent that can contribute new knowledge and ideas for creating valuable global solutions. Consider some of the key phases that are critical to engagement:

Ideation – How does the creative process address diverse cultural contexts in order to encourage creative thinking and new ideas from team members in local markets?

Strategic Planning – How is your organization engaging in shared strategy-making through cross-cultural learning and knowledge-sharing?

Validation – How is your organization responding to cultural differences and local customer preferences when developing and testing new concepts?

Execution – How is multicultural collaboration and knowledge-sharing recognized and addressed within project performance measures for global innovation teams?

Culturally diverse views bring valuable insights to local problems and issues that are pertinent to solving international challenges. In today’s constantly changing business environment, we need to pay more attention to local voices in order to orchestrate innovation around the world. Listening and learning from culturally diverse perspectives nurtures an open and creative mind. Sharing country knowledge and practices enables and engages the global team in multicultural innovation. This opens the door to innovative solutions that truly deliver value and respond to the needs of customers in developing, emerging, and mature economies.

By Karina Jensen

About the author

Karina Jensen is the author of a new book on Leading Global Innovation. A consultant, educator, and change facilitator, she enjoys optimizing multicultural innovation, organizational performance, and international market success for global leaders and teams. Connect with Karina on LinkedIn, Twitter @DrKarinaJensen or

Featured image via Yayimages.