You ARE Here: Paths to Global Commerce & Entrepreneurship
I wanted to talk about Global Connectivity. It’s one of those phrases we hear a lot. Something we think we are already doing, though we are not completely certain that’s true. I wanted to create a map about Global Connectivity – but of course, YOU ARE HERE.
I thought I could illustrate the point by talking about my teenagers whose room I went into to see if they had yet cleaned up the mess. Inevitably, I found them on the gaming console talking to someone on the headset. When I asked them later who they were talking to, they told me someone in Germany. I knew they didn’t speak enough German to understand the language, but they clearly understood enough to know who was and wasn’t winning the game. Later, these same teenagers came to me telling me their future plans involved bringing together a group of like-minded gamers, finding a sponsor who would then send them to South Korea for the Master Gaming conference where they could ultimately become “bonjwa” – the South Korean term for Master Gamer. Because YOU ARE HERE.
I then thought of the my 9 year old and his love of hamsters coming to me for ways to earn extra money. Together we came up with the idea of shooting a series of hamster “stunt videos” – fear not, no real hamsters were harmed in the making, a toy hamster performed all the feats of athleticism and bravery, the real hamster showing up only at the end of the video to take all the credit. The idea was that other hamster enthusiasts would watch the videos driving traffic to the website we created which would sell “hamster approved” accessories. The 9 year old held no inventory as all products were drop shipped by the manufacturer in China to anywhere in the world, there was no exchange of money as all payments were made via PayPal. The only flaw in the plan being that most 9 year olds are not well known for their interest in customer service or running a business. But, after all, YOU ARE HERE.
In my daily life I am a business consultant working with small to mid-size companies to position for growth, strategize new marketing and identify niche markets. On occasion, we discuss global trade but this often leads to conversations about establishing foreign offices, understanding terms like Fare On Board, and defining multiple international distribution channels. These conversations often prevent us from remembering YOU ARE HERE.
When I went back to those same teens and asked them about their plans for the future and if those plans might include working globally, the answer always began with the mention of the need to move to a bigger city, possibly learn multiple languages and probably spending years studying international trade. They seemed to have forgotten, YOU ARE HERE.
I thought I might try to demystify some of the assumptions about access to global connectivity so I created a board game where players assume the role of small start-ups with the game play ending in global expansion. I thought the game might interest my teens, or might be used locally as a tool to teach YOU ARE HERE.
But then a friend moving back to Morocco offered to take a couple of games and play them overseas. Soon a class of business students in Marakesh were playing too. As interest in the this product began to gain momentum, I started to receive calls from places like Tobago, Spain, South Africa and the Netherlands, where it is now being used at FONTYS University. Later I received a video featuring a group of 12 entrepreneurs in South Africa who had played the game and gave their feedback. We Skyped to discuss their insights and how we could improve some things. From there I met someone who was raised in India, educated in London, teaching in Southern California and working with educators in, of all places, a nearby rural community. He had mentioned developing an online version of the game, something we are now working on. I remembered, of course, YOU ARE HERE.
And, so, while it is true that large scale global commerce will always have its complex rules and regulations, the rules for the rest of us are far simpler than they have ever been. And so I had wanted to create a map about global connectivity, but it is also true that there is no map – because each journey is so different and so unique. But, if we share our journeys with one another, even if we think the path isn’t well defined, the more interconnected our experiences will become and the more globally connected we will be.
Because, of course, YOU ARE HERE.