Contextual Intelligence

HBR published my article on Contextual Intelligence yesterday. The article generated a fair amount of conversation within the first 24 hours. The best place to join the conversation (I think) is the comments section of the article on HBR: do join in there.

Here’s the executive summary:

The author, a strategy and international-business professor at Harvard Business School, has come to a conclusion that may surprise you: Trying to apply management practices uniformly across geographies is a fool’s errand. Best practices simply don’t travel well across borders. That’s because conditions not just of economic development but of institutional maturity, educational norms, language, and culture vary enormously from place to place. Students of managerial practice once thought that their technical knowledge of best manufacturing practices (to take one example) was sufficiently developed that processes simply needed to be tweaked to fit local conditions. More often, it turns out, they have to be reworked quite radically—not because the technology is wrong but because everything around it changes how it will work.

There’s nothing wrong with the tools we have at our disposal, but their application requirescontextual intelligence: the ability to understand the limits of our knowledge and to adapt that knowledge to a context different from the one in which it was acquired. Until we can better develop and apply contextual intelligence, failure rates for cross-border businesses will remain high, what we learn from experiments unfolding around the world will remain limited, and the promise of healthy growth in all parts of the world will remain unfulfilled.

Read the complete article here.

 

 

 

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