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Think global, act global…

December 7, 2009

People have been talking about ‘Thinking global, acting local’ for almost 100 years old now although it is a phrase more associated with environmental and globalisation commentary of the late 20th century.

Globalisation has moved on a pace over the last ten years, particularly from a web and information management perspective. That original phrase has been used a lot to describe best practices for internationalisation and localisation.

Experiences in recent years, combined with a view of the bigger challenges facing our world today, highlighted particularly by the current Copenhagen meetings has led me to a different outlook – ‘Think global, act global’

To put it bluntly, I don’t think we have the luxury to ‘act local’ any more.  To me, acting local seems like an indulgence that leads to inefficiency, unnecessary duplication of effort and wasted resources.

I know that the environmental movement was trying to encourage us to think beyond our borders but the world’s biggest polluters have been acting in ‘local’ interest for far too long and if they continue to do so then runaway global warming and its associated catastrophes seem increasingly certain.

The first challenge from a climate perspective is that politics on a local level is ineffective. Forcing a small country and its inhabitants to ‘act locally’ while the large developed and developing countries continue on in the same ways is hypocritical. Big problems need big global action.

One of the main thing I’ve observed in global web projects over the last few years is how similar things are from country to country as opposed to how different – even from one side of the world to the other. I’ve lost count of the number of marketing meetings I’ve attended where the talk is about how things are done very differently in this or that market, only to discover that the interests of the target market are essentially the same and the marketing approaches almost identical.

Globalisation best practice suggests centralised control with local empowerment. While this makes a lot of sense I think a lot of organisations could go further and faster with more centralised control.

Like the current debates around climate change and the need to drive forward a global agenda, I think too much local level thinking can be detrimental to global web projects. In my experience there are a lot of examples where online marketing activities in one market are direcly applicable in another and a lot of time, effort and resource can be saved reusing content and digital assets.

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