TO SURVIVE in the new global knowledge economy, all organisations must develop a global mindset. They must also understand national cultures and the ways of doing business in different nations.

Managers in Singaporean companies must possess the following five competencies to function effectively in the new global marketplace.

Cross-cultural competence

Understanding other cultures is the key to success. This is also critical for "thinking globally and strategically". Some of the world's greatest brands have paid a tremendous price for overlooking this basic fact. Wal-Mart, which has succeeded in China, struggled to "connect" with Japanese consumers. Coca-Cola had a steep learning curve in Japan. India remains a great challenge.

The clash of national and organisational cultures of Germany's Daimler and the US' Chrysler was a principal reason for the failure of Daimler-Chrysler. In the world of international relations, understanding the other culture should always be a top priority.

It is critical that organisations develop cross-cultural competence - the ability to understand, respect, listen and learn from other cultures - in their managers.

Relationship skills

In most of the world, business and international relations are based on personal relationships. Connections, or guanxi as the Chinese call it, are critical. Managers of Singaporean organisations must be able to connect with and build close personal relationships with decision makers in the other countries.

A manager can have all the technical and financial expertise, but if he or she does not have the patience and competence to establish and develop genuine personal relationships and trust, the individual and organisation will not succeed in the local context.

In many parts of the world, western contracts and agreements mean little or nothing. Trust is key. A person's word is often the bond that makes things happen.


English is the language of global business. But Singaporean managers must understand that some knowledge of the local language of the country in which a company wants to do business goes a very long way. It is amazing what can happen when a local national sees that the "foreigner" is attempting to speak in the local language.

Multilingualism is an asset that an organisation should look for in its search for talent.

Given the nature of the new global economy and the major players in it, a knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, English and a major Indian language can give one a real edge.


Little can be accomplished in the new global economy without collaboration across national boundaries. In hiring managers to effectively compete in this new economy, companies must look for individuals who thrive on team work and global collaboration. In the 24/7 world where time zones really don't exist, virtual teams are running the world!

Facebook, Google Talk, Yahoo Instant Messenger and the Internet have revolutionised the world of business. People are getting to know each other without even meeting physically, and collaborating on tasks and projects, across boundaries. There are no age, gender or racial barriers in this new world of global collaboration. And you have the ability to solve problems, get things done and sell products and services anytime, anywhere.

Global marketing

In the final analysis, everything has to be sold. To be truly effective in the 24/7 time-zoneless world, companies should hire managers who are above all exceptional marketers and salesmen. Nothing happens in any organisation anywhere unless a product or service is sold. No one gets paid.

Listening to customers everywhere on this planet, bonding with them and helping them achieve their dreams, is what distinguishes the winners from the losers.

Financial, supply chain and technology systems must exist to focus totally on the customer. In the words of the father of management, Peter Drucker, "The purpose of a business is to create a customer". Little has changed. Today's challenge is to retain and multiply them.