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?