How Important Is Global Acumen?


For many years, the development of global acumen primarily focused on people in an organization’s home country who needed to better understand the few countries in which their company operated. But today, when it is common for an organization to conduct up to 80 percent of its business outside the country that houses the central office, there are many more people whose jobs require global acumen.

Simply stated, global acumen is understanding and appreciating the unique characteristics of various cultures around the world and what it takes to live and do business successfully within them.

Possessing global acumen does not mean an individual has an in-depth understanding of the world’s cultures; rather, it implies practical business skills built on an understanding of the principle ways people and organizations of various cultures differ and how to work with them.

Organizations that perform best on an international level are those willing to set aside time and resources to develop in their employees cultural competence, the precursor to global acumen.  

While it may seem daunting to organizational leaders to instill cultural competence, and thus global acumen, in employees, it is an intuitive process, as outlined by the Cultural Orientations Approach (COA): Employees on the path to cultural competence are first advised to gain self-awareness through the Cultural Orientations Indicator assessment, and then other-awareness with the unique and valuable features on the Cultural Navigator, such as the colleague and team gap analyses and the country guides. COA principles such as the Four Key Cultural Skills and Strategic Performance Framework provide helpful guidelines for continued learning.

As more and more business interactions take place among people from different backgrounds and orientations, global acumen is a business necessity. Employees with cultural competence are able to translate their self- and other-awareness into global acumen, leading to more successful business interactions.