Sunday, November 1, 2015

Worlds of the World

We think the UN operating in six official languages is impressive but those are a tiny fraction of the 7,102 languages in the world.  Of those thousands researchers tell us 23 are mother tongues spoken by almost 50 BILLION people.  But all those people don’t live in one spot.   People move, learn new languages, and yet still speak their mother tongue – sharing it with the people in their new places.

Take a look at the Infographic created by Alberto Lucas Lopez, Graphics Director at the South China Morning Post to see what the languages are and where they’re spoken.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Changing Gobal Cities

A few days ago I heard a presentation by Mary O’hara-Deveraux of Global Foresight (  Mary is a futurist who speaks regularly about the future trends in life and business.  This past week in part of her talk she referenced the findings of McKinsey’s Global Institute’s Urban World Cities project.

Briefly they said that today 600 world cities contribute 60% of the world’s GDP.  But slightly more than a dozen years from now, think 2026, 600 cities will contribute 65%.
A measurable uptick but more importantly the names of the cities on the list of 600 will change.  We’ll see hundreds of cities in China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain replacing names that are now included.   

What will drive some of these changes?  We’ll see growth, both in population and economic activity.  One driver of both is entrepreneurial activity.  Greg Lindsay wrote an intriguing article in Inc. titled  “Top 5 Start Up Hubs of the Future – and they’re not in the US”.   The list didn’t include Boston, Austin or San Jose.  His top 5?  Istanbul, Dubai, Santiago, Tallinn and Shenzhen. (

Will these five cities be on McKinsey’s list in 2016?  Let’s go see them now and again and again and decide for ourselves. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Words Matter

There are endless articles about the challenge of working globally.  Dozens and dozens of stories about problems created due to cultural misunderstandings.  Websites that lists marketing horror stories based on incorrect use of language.   20 Epic Fails in Global Branding (

One has to ask how these major companies could make such a mistake.  Did they rely on Google translate, a colleague who spoke the languages but had no experience writing?    Moving from one language to another as a traveler has limited risks but in our global business where risks are high, trained professionals can make the difference.

But whom the professionals are that you need depends on what on more than just specific language. To decide which profession is qualified to help move from one language to another depends the answer to the question:  Are we talking about a written document or the spoken word (speech, meeting, conversation)?

For written material (documents, books, marketing slogans) look for a translator.  They have to understand not just the words but also the intent, the style of the writer and the topic of the document.  It’s one thing to translate a simple letter of introduction and another to work on a technical document explaining how to use a piece of equipment or legal agreement between multiple parties.  Looking for some help?    Check the website of the American Translators Association or the International Association of Translators and Interpreters ( 

As complicated as it can be to work with the written word, managing to move from one language to another as it is spoken presents another level of challenge. 
That’s when you need an interpreter. 

The United Nations, with its six official language, uses translators and interpreters.  The work of an interpreter is so challenging that they work in pairs, alternating in 15 – 20 minutes periods.

It isn’t just the just at UN meeting where interpreters are necessary.  Many business conferences have attendees speaking multiple languages.  Whether you are planning a conference or need an interpreter for a presentation you may find help through the AIIC – The International Association of Conference Interpreters (

If it’s a business meeting, a negotiation it is wise for each party to hire their own interpreter and to brief them well before the meeting. 

Words matter.  Spoken and written.  Be sure that the words you speak or write, the messages you want to convey make it through from one language to another.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A new flag for New Zealand?

You may have heard that New Zealand is in the midst of a debate about what their national flag should look like.  It isn’t that they don’t have one.  They do.  It was created over a century ago.  But in 2016 the look of the flag  may change.

I’d never thought of a country with a long history changing their flag and had no idea this was on the “to-do” list in New Zealand.  That is until I came across a recent article in the Economist magazine titled “Hang up the fern! A new flag for New Zealand”.  It seems that New Zealand has decided to redesign its flag that has to create one that people believe represents the country as it is today. 

If you think about a country as a brand and the flag it’s logo, then maybe this move isn’t so startling.  Companies do it.  Think of the global brands whose look (and slogans) have been “updated.”  Among them are Google, HSBC, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and T-Mobile. 

But a country?  Whose flag stands for its history, traditions.  For the struggles and successes of its citizens through decades and even centuries?   Its colors, stripes, stars, bars, triangles all have meaning.   It seems change can at least be considered.

To find a new design the government asked the citizens of New Zealand to submit their suggestions.  Of the thousands received the possibilities are now down to five.  To see the designs follow this link. (

In the months ahead, these five will be narrowed down to a single option.  The final decision about changing the national flag will be made by referendum in 2016.  At that time New Zealanders will decide between two choices:  keep the existing flag or go with the new design.  

How would you vote?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The World has Arrived

September is the time when it seems that the entire world arrives in New York City.   It’s the month when the United Nations General Assembly gathers for their annual meeting.  

While this 70th annual meeting opened quietly on September 15 you can expect to see headlines appear regularly soon.  There will be major events, appearances and speeches from now until closing October 6.   With world leaders from many of the UN’s 193 member countries in attendance there will be lots of photos, videos, tweets and talking heads talking.

Take special note of September 25 when His Holiness Pope Francis will speak and the General Assembly sessions the 28th through October 6 where world leaders including US President Barack Obama, Xi Jinping of China,  Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Francois Hollande of France are scheduled to speak.  One major question at the moment is will Russian President Vladmir Putin speak? 

Want some background on the UNGA?  Check this article in The Guardian (  It’s created a concise look at the UN today and it’s history. 

Don’t miss this year’s UNGA. (#unga) earn about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that will “define the global development framework for the next generation.”  What will these countries agree should be the focus for the years to come?  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

From Food There Not from Home

As this weekend in the US with the Labor Day holiday marks the end of summer, our thoughts turn to the question:  What did we love about our vacation and where shall  we go next? When can I discover a new place, a new food, an intriguing taste?

Thanks for an article in Huffington Post (  I discovered there’s a way to bring the world – through food – to your doorstop.  Not through Netflix, YouTube or magazine.  Rather in a pretty box delivered to the door.   Try The World ( is a subscription service that offers boxes of gourmet products, six times a year, delivered to the subscriber.  Each box features 6- 7 items representing the food a specific country.  This month they are featuring Spain.  On their earlier list are Japan, Morocco, Thailand and France.

It isn't simply about discovering a new place.  Been there and want to relive the experience through a special taste?  Visit their shop and order a taste reminder of that visit.  Wondering if you’ll like the food?  Experiment with a product or two. 

As summer ends, and it’s too soon to book the next trip, I am thinking that a box of tasty treats from far away may be just the thing to take me into fall and winter.
Where shall we go and what will we eat?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Elections, lots and lots of elections

If you live in the US you know without a doubt you know that there will be a Presidential election in November 2016 – 15 months from now. You’ve been bombarded by information about the election for months and months already.

You may also be aware that our neighbor to the North, our largest trading partner, Canada will hold an election in approximately seven weeks.  Announced just days ago the results will matter for all of us.  Yet that news doesn’t make headlines here.

 More likely you’ve heard that there will be an election in Greece in slightly less than thirty days.  That does make headlines these days.

It’s easy to think these are the only national upcoming elections in the next few months.  But that’s not correct.

While the US press is focused on the statements, some sensible, some crazy of potential US candidates for an election 15 months away, more than a dozen countries, near and far, trading partners, potentially important markets will hold election that whose outcome will make a difference for all of us.  Keep an eye out for the results of general, parliamentary and presidential elections in the reminder of 2015 in Egypt, Turkey, Venezuela, Guatemala, Belarus, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire to name just a few. 

Do a search.  Check it out.  See what’s happening around the world.  Who will the leaders be?  And wherever you are, if it there’s an opportunity, don’t forget to vote.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Newest Mini Bar

Packing for a trip can be stressful.  What to take?  What’s enough?  Too much?  How to be sure the bag isn’t too big to fit in an overhead or too heavy to get on the plane?

To find guidance, answers to these questions travelers are offered are dozens of lists on line and even more books to read.  On Amazon one can find pages of possibilities ranging from “The Secrets of the Carry on Traveler “ to  “A Guy’s Guide to One Bag Packing” and more.

But we all know that no matter how careful we are it’s easy to arrive at our destination and be missing something.  The weather changed and we need something warmer or cooler.  The shoes aren’t quite right.  The wrinkles won’t come out of the shirt or skirt.

Worry less now for there is a solution appearing at hotels across Europe.  It’s the Mini Fashion Bar. (   In this Mini Bar there are no liquids or snacks to tempt you. 
Rather the temptation appears in the form of clothes, accessories or shoes. 

Pimkie the French fashion and retail brand ( is partnering with boutique hotels to offer solutions to travelers’ fashion emergencies. There’s even a concierge to help you find the correct size if what’s in your room isn’t a perfect fit.   Now available in Brussels and Amsterdam, Mini Fashion Bars will soon be found in Barcelona, Paris, Milan and London.

What will we find next in that space reserved for a Mini Bar? 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Four tips for Explorers

The season of vacations and travel is well underway.   People are talking about where they’re going, what they did while they were gone or seemingly have just vanished.  Out of office messages fill our mail boxes.

Meanwhile, recommendations for where to travel, what to do sprout up everywhere.   I came across one article that I thought offered some useful advice about how to explore a destination.  Afar magazine ( calls their tips How to Travel Deeper. They offer four simple steps that can help you learn about a new place (or more about a place you’ve checked out before).

Whether your trip is for pleasure or business you may find their ideas useful

1.  Take a cooking class.  Get to know something about the food beyond what you experience in a restaurant – even one recommended by the locals.

2. Drink the local Wine (or whatever is the local favorite liquid refreshment – wine, beer, coffee, tea or something else.  At a tasting of food and drink from Peru organized by the Consul General of Peru in San Francisco, I tasted Pisco, the brandy developed in the 16th century by a Spanish settler. Famous in Peru it was new to me. Along with discovering a new taste treat I learned something about Peru at the same time).

3. Visit churches, temples, and sacred places.  (Discover art, architecture and places of importance in the community.)

4.  Tour by bike  - (or for those of us who don’t do bikes - walking, taking local transportation – also offer ways to engage with the locale more directly than running from place to place by taxi or tour bus.)

Every traveler has a special way of exploring and enjoying where they go.  What else would you suggest to a friend who ask for your advice?  Will you try one of these steps - or all four -- on your next trip?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Even More Independent Traveler

To some of you this is old news – to others it’s a startling surprise.  One more step making the airline traveler independent.  Or making flying more self-service.  Airlines now say:  tag that bag (that you are paying to check) and put it on the belt – yourself.

Alaska Airline travelers are familiar with this practice that they started several years. Travelers can print their bag tags with their boarding passes.  But for me – it was a surprise.

Returning from Paris earlier this year I was puzzled, a bit confused when an Air France staff member told me that I could avoid the very, very, very long check in line if I’d print a luggage tag and attach to my bag myself.  The line for self tagged bags was as short as the other was long.  No question.  I’d figure out the tag (and wonder all through the flight if it really would stay on).  No problem.  Luggage and tag arrived in San Francisco as planned.

But just as I adapted to this new step I discovered there are more changes to come.  According to the Wall Street Journal ( digital tags are on the horizon.  These will be permanent bag tags that digitally update if flight plans change.

According to the article “more than a third of global airlines now ask fliers to tag their own bags, compared with 13% in 2009, according to SITA, an airline-technology firm. By 2018, more than three-quarters of carriers intend to offer the service.”

Progress or a bother for the traveler?  Will it help avoid lost luggage or send our bags randomly around the world? 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Brands: Which ones are Enlightened?

Once upon a time a brand was a mark burned onto an animal to indicate ownership. Later brands came to mean the names of products.

Today a brand is much more than the name of a product.  We now consider brands as if they were a living, evolving entity, not simply the name of a car, airline, or a pair of shoes.  Nations are branded and individuals are urged to consider their personal brand. 

Brand characteristics are studied, discussed and worried over by marketing people worldwide hoping to find ways to engage (obtain, hold) customers.  It isn’t enough to have a good product, price and pretty logo.  A brand must somehow be something special.

Which takes us to a recent publication by the trend forecasting service Trend Watching.  They provide information on consumer trends around the world.  Their most recent report highlighted what they call the newest type of brand:  one that is Enlightened.  What does that mean?   Enlightened brands “will take meaningful action to improve individual lives and the wider world.”

According to their research these entities are: Restless (working to make the world a better place), Empathetic (know what pains their customers and how to help them) and Demanding  (expecting to change their customers to become their best selves)

Who’s Enlightened these days?

E4, a UK television channel suspended service on the day of the general election, encouraging viewers to vote.  

Audi created an app that connects stranded drivers with drivers of Audi’s 4x4 vehicles who could rescue them.

Vodafone offers guaranteed maternity pay worldwide – even in countries where it isn’t required.  

No longer static marks - brands are alive and active. (At least in our imaginations).  Which ones should have this designation?  Which ones should be added to the list of The Restless (innovators), Empathetic and Demanding (be your best self)  - the Enlightened ones?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Where to Look?

“Look at me when you’re I’m talking to you.”    A familiar phrase to American children (and adults.)  Making direct eye contact is an important element in American, and most Western, cultures.   It underscores the idea of being clear and direct in all aspects of communication.  

While staring, holding prolonged eye contact is discouraged, looking directly at people when they’re speaking is expected.  Speakers interpret that gaze as a sign of interest, connection. For some it’s seen as showing self-confidence, and sincerity.

Looking away, down at the floor, glancing at the ceiling or in anyway breaking that visual connection can change the impression.  The other person may wonder:  What’s he hiding?  Is she sneaky, afraid, anxious, disinterested or bored? 

And yet in other parts of the world  - in other cultures -  that same visual gesture – looking away, averting ones eyes is seen as appropriate, a sign of respect.   And the Western direct focus may be interpreted as disrespectful and aggressive. 

When talking, listening, engaged in conversation as you travel the world remember that where you look  carries a message.   More importantly that how its interpreted differs significantly.  Take care in translating this component of a conversation:  Respect or aggressive?  Confident or sneaky?  It depends.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Global Cities The Big Five (or Six)

We live in, work in and travel to cities around the world.  Each one is special in some way and we each have an opinion about our favorite for work or play.  But we often don’t  know much about these places beyond our personal experience.  To take a deeper dive into the major urban areas of the world we can reach out to and read through some interesting analyses from a variety of sources. 

One of my favorites is from the global management consulting firm A T Kearney.  They issue an annual report  on the status of cities titled the Global Cities Index and the 2015 report was recently released.

This year the report has expanded beyond the basic report -The Global Cities Index (GCI) (The GCI looks at 125 cities to consider their “global engagement”  taking into consideration five areas: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement.)  In 2015 the Global Cities Outlook (GCO) was added.  According to their press release the GCO looks at the future potential on the rate of change across four dimensions—Personal Well-being, Economics, Innovation, and Governance. 

Which cities topped the list in each category?
GCI Top Five               New York London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong
GCO Top Five             San Francisco, London, Boston, New York, Zurich

In addition they’ve now created another list:  the Global Elite   These are 16 cities that are ranked in the top 25 of the GCI, (what’s happening today), and in the top 25 of the GCO (a glimpse of the possible future).  The list expands beyond the sets of top fives we saw above and adds in Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam, Singapore, Seoul, Sydney and Melbourne.” 

The AT Kearney report isn’t the only look at the Cities of the World. The Atlantic’s City Lab calculates the worlds most economically powerful cities 

Their ranking combines the results of 5 other studies including the AT Kearney’s GCI, the United Nation’s City Prosperity Index and the Global City Competitiveness Index from The Economist.  Using these varied studies they capture rankings considering topic as diverse as gdp, human capital, financial maturity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.  Each report one merits study and reveals different facets of the many global cities.

The results?  Familiar names make their list too.   London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris. – top five here too.    But new names appear too.   Sydney and Helsinki tied at #14, Dublin and Osaka-Kobe tied at #16 and #23 is a tie between Washington, DC, San Francisco and Moscow.

It’s possible to spend hours carefully reading these studies, learning about the difference and similarities of these Global Cities.  Explore the data and discover new things about your city, your next destination, the place that will be central to your global expansion.  Which one will be your favorite, where does it rank this year and where will it be next year?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Everyone Rides

I recently rediscovered the joy of finding an interesting read on the shelves of the local public library (as opposed to hoping for something good to pop up in an Amazon search.  Soon I found myself reading How to Be Danish – A Journey to the Cultural Heart of Denmark (Patrick Kingsley).  With a bright red cover it popped off the shelf and home it came.

I’ve enjoyed reading about Danish design, the local food revolution and their folk schools.  But what captivated me the most (so far) was in the chapter “Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen.”  The idea that everyone, young, old, resident, tourist, rides bicycles to go everywhere fascinates me.  Special traffic lights for bicycles?  For a California resident where simple bike lanes are unusual that’s a surprise.

According to an article in Wired, Copenhagen is  #1 in the list of the 20 most bike friendly cities.  (The only US city to make the list is Minneapolis, Minnesota at #18)

How do people manage to commute to work, play, and run errands on a bike?  A puzzle to me.  And what do they wear?  (I remember being in China and seeing a woman wearing business suit and heels riding a bike – what poise and balance.)   A journalist, Mikael Colvile-Andersen created a blog that allows us to see what they wear, and what kind of bikes they ride:

Take a look and then think about booking a flight to ride around this amazing city. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Off We Go

We know summer is almost here when the papers (at least in the US) are filled with articles about books to read on the beach.  As if everyone would be spending days and hours in June, July and August relaxed with book in hand.  Lovely thought.

But often to get to that place where we can delve into a new book requires that we travel.  And again this year surveys are predicting record numbers of travelers.
For those of us who are lucky enough to love travel, airports in particular, (that’s me) this season can even stretch our patience.  But for those for whom flying is uncomfortable, even frightening, this may be your least favorite season.

According to some studies as much 40% of the population have some level of anxiety related to travel.  For some it’s so extreme they refuse to fly.

But not everyone can avoid flights entirely.  For those a Google search will lead to tips for coping.  You can request a seat up front to feel less of turbulence, turn on the air vent to keep air flowing on you, do/don’t drink alcohol, avoid caffeine and more.  Check out the NBC News “10 tips for the Fearful Traveler” ( or an article from Independent Traveler:

Even airlines try to help. Virgin Atlantic has a “Flying Without Fear” course (  British Air now offers in flight meditation program ( 

Even those of us who love to fly experience moments when we’d rather be elsewhere.  For me the best thing to do when a flight get bumpy (and scary) is immerse myself in that new book or game on my I-pad, dip into the potato chips which seem to offset the onset of motion sickness or talk with person next to me. 

How do you cope when you don’t love the flight?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

I'd like a book to read

In the United States newspapers often post lists of books to read during summer holidays as though everyone will be able to take time to lie on a beach and read for hours.

For many getting that special book is as easy as heading to Amazon (, typing in the name of the book desired and clicking on a link and instantly the book arrives. For others, it’s a matter of finding a brick and mortar library, discovering when its open and heading to the nearest one.

Around the world it isn’t always that easy.  But thanks to dedicated people – librarians, artists, interested citizens,  special, unusual libraries serve people around the world.   According author Alex Johnson,  these hidden gems  are  “often mobile, creative and community driven.”  His new book Improbable Libraries: A Visual Journey to the World’s Most Unusual Libraries  highlights books being delivered to readers today by camel (Mongolia), elephants (Laos) and decades ago by horse drawn vehicles (US).

The book is filled with stunning photos that include a library for deaf children in  Burundi,  a refrigerator (library) in New Zealand and Ford Falcon in Argentina that looks like an ancient tank covered in books.  Even that is a library. 

For me the book is not just a statement about the continued interest and value of traditional printed books.  Rather, it also is a reminder of extraordinary work people do to contribute to the lives of their friends, neighbors, and strangers.  That the world still has bright spots no matter how dire the daily headlines.

What will you read this summer and where will you find it? 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What Did You Mean/

Everyone speaks English.  English is the language of business.   Whether or not these expressions are accurate depends on where you are, what you’re doing.

But one thing is certain.  English isn’t an easy language.   Multiple words that sound the same have different spelling and different meanings.  These words puzzle native English speakers not just those for whom it is a second or third language. 

Did you mean to say something is permitted (allowed) or spoken out loud (aloud)?  Was it that you wished to say add to and improve (complement) or show admiration (compliment)?    

Click on this link to get a look at dozens and dozens of word pairs that won’t get corrected by spell check if you use one incorrectly.

Language – any language – can surprise or puzzle you.   That's certainly true for English.