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A New Era for Global Startup Success: cross-generational, multicultural and decentralized teams

With the world gradually moving into the digital realm and the differences in time and distance blurring day to day, the boundaries companies faced once when scaling and growing have been disappearing, too.

Building a successful global company today is nothing like it was years ago thanks to the recent technological advancements that allow uninterrupted communication flows and real-time connections across countries, time zones and cultures.

And today more than ever, the key to building a successful company from scratch — beginning from the startup stage till its formation and maturity — is global, diverse, cross-generational teams of the best experts from around the world.

With the pandemic bringing the global economy down to its knees and stunting the growth of many companies, young or mature, there is no doubt COVID-19 has become a calamity that essentially accelerated this transition to the digital space and the increasing power of technology. In fact, the companies and organizations that have managed to stay afloat in the current situation — let alone take a leap forward — have been the highly tech-driven, digitized ones with a less hierarchical internal structure, more dispersed around the world and thus more agile in adapting to these new changes shaping the future of the economy and the world.

And while the pandemic is truly a great hindrance for a lot of companies on their way to steady growth and increased strength of positioning in the market, there is a silver lining to it that allows to shift the perspective and look at these changes in a different light — in a more hopeful, vaguely positive way. The opportunities that the pandemic has brought about have already begun blurring the borders between countries and continents and even eliminating such traditional barriers as distance and time zones.

With more people working from home and more business operations moving towards digital, the pandemic fuels globalization and with that diversity in teams and companies, allowing them to seek talent beyond their localities and across global markets. Suddenly, the key to the long-term startup success won’t be simply finding the best candidates in the available vicinity. It will be about scaling the search for talent on a global level and choosing the cream of the crop candidates from all over the world — and putting together a diverse team that offers enough variety in perspective, expertise and experience, while effectively collaborating and symbiotically driving the startup to maturity and domination in the market.

Of course, in the past, the common consensus was that managing dispersed and sparse teams was more a challenge rather than advantage; very often, companies lacked the synchronized systems that would facilitate efficiently sharing ideas, building an aligned corporate culture, and ensuring steady communication between the leadership and the teams globally. In other words, companies — young and established — feared they would lose the human element of proximity between people — both spatial and cultural — that would help foster genuine trust among colleagues.

But the context today is completely different — and filled with more opportunities to leverage diversity and globalization for faster growth than in the past.

In fact, research shows that companies with more globally diverse teams tend to achieve much better financial results than other companies. According to McKinsey, diversity can be a valuable competitive differentiator that has the potential to shift market share toward companies with diverse teams over time.

With younger companies — startups especially — beginning their journeys from ground zero, starting off with a globally diverse team from the beginning can especially prove beneficial because the wide variety of perspectives and expertise diversity offers can drive the company’s progress from the first steps it takes to enter the global arena. So what are the exact benefits that diverse teams can introduce to startups and emerging companies striving to establish a strong foothold globally?

Best experts from around the world

If previously, companies would look for the best experts available in their immediate vicinity, today, there is no such thing as distance limits — technically.

What this means for emerging companies is, their pool of potential teammates is the entire world instead of the narrow and specific geographic location where they are headquartered.

What this also means is that rising companies can take unique advantages of the strengths different regions can offer in terms of talent — and it highly varies based on culture, upbringing, and education among other factors. Need the best mechanical engineers? It turns out Germany is the best place to look for the best of the best, the cream of the crop.

Within the EU, among the leading countries with the best software developer workforces were Sweden and the Netherlands. Bloomberg found that Israel and Switzerland were consistently among the most innovative countries in the world, with the former leading in Research and Development and the latter in medicine and pharmaceuticals.

There is no shortage of great talent around the world, and casting the net wider can help any startup discover the key players in its future success and growth by incorporating the best experts from around the world.

Innovation, innovation, innovation

Global diversity doesn’t just bring together the best experts in any given field to work together and collaborate: it also creates a unique opportunity for innovation and creative problem-solving. It turns out that, contrary to the general belief that diversity hinders effective decision-making, it actually encourages team members to speak up, courageously share their thoughts and thus introduce new and fresh ideas in times of need.

In fact, research has found that cultural diversity doesn’t simply create a healthy environment for healthy brainstorming — it also leads to the introduction of palatable product innovations and new solutions beyond ideas. In other words, diverse teams don’t simply add an element of efficiency and innovation to a startup’s existing vision; it may well put any startup on a new, better path through effective collaboration and healthy exchange of ideas between experts with differing yet equally powerful perspectives.

Whether it’s an update to a current product or service or a new idea for a pivot, global diversity is what will ensure a successful move forward for any emerging company.

Cross-generational mentorship and collaboration

Diversity doesn’t only imply building teams on a global scale culturally. It also means adopting a cross-generational approach to team-building, where companies combine the innovative minds of younger generations with the expertise and life experience of older generations to create a synergistic relationship that will drive the growth of the young startup in the future.

Cross-generational collaboration is something companies do not consider today but should be treated as a golden ticket to success: it introduces a combination of change that young employees are so eager to implement and the leadership and management skills that older employees have developed over the years. In such an environment, startups should focus on fostering cross-generational mentorship relationships between the two generations by pairing the strengths of each to the company’s — and each of the individual employees’ — advantage.

In this context, employees develop a two-way relationship that is different from the traditional understanding of mentorship. In young companies pairing employees across generations, the teammates alternate in taking on the roles of mentees and mentors: where older generations share their expertise and knowledge developed over their long-lasting careers, the younger generations teach them about the possibilities that the modern world — and the technological advancements driving it — introduce to the company.

With the world shifting constantly and globalization becoming more and more prominent, young and emerging companies need to expand their current understanding of growth and scaling — and multiply it by a thousand. The truth is, the traditional boundaries the companies used to evaluate their positions in the past are dissipating day-to-day; increasingly, action is moving into the digital space, and only the companies who choose to think bigger and across borders are the ones who will ride the wave of change instead of letting it wash over them.

And when the pandemic is over, the world won’t be the same as we know it today, and the key difference will be the global interconnectedness and the more grand scale of any operations — a result of how the pandemic enabled global connections across borders and time zones for individuals and companies alike. In this new world, it is the agile and diverse teams that will propel their startups to long-term success and to establishing a strong foothold in the market with their unique combinations of talent, aptitude, expertise, and variety of perspective in carving the company’s path and ensuring its quick adaptability to changing circumstances.

So, think big. Think global. And keep an eye out for the best people for your team across countries, across cultures, and across generations — because when the pandemic is over, the former boundaries holding growing companies back won’t exist anymore.

Written By: Gary Fowler, Co-Founder & CEO of GSDVS


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