SPECIAL REPORT - Global Insights From HBS Dean, LinkedIN CEO & Google Ideas Director - Blog

The recent Miss Universe contest held in Brazil managed to focus globalization’s appeal in a way that no Goldman Sachs research report (even with the catchy “BRIC” acronym) ever could!

The Economist continued to illuminate the global dimensions of human potential by recently hosting a fascinating two-day conference entitled Human Potential: The Next Level of Competition (“the conference”). Within a hyper-connected global marketplace for talent the shade of your collar, whether blue or white, is of little significance. All face the risk of being commoditized. But how do you stand out from your global peers to capture that plum job or secure your seat in the incoming class of that top graduate program? Today, your business career at some point will almost surely require global experience – a welcomed treat for the prepared; a terrifying prospect for the indistinguishable. The Crimson Oak team was inspired by the conference to share our thoughts and sharpen the discussion by confronting a few unanswered questions. Through segmenting the levels of competition, we provide you with pragmatic take-aways highlighting possible pathways to success. These segments increasingly overlap. The idea of a 40 year old American male, “credentialized” executive being supervised by a 25 year old foreign-born female executive is no longer inconceivable.



 Go to college, get a good job, buy a home and retire. This equation is broken: leaving many unemployed young college graduates around the world feeling hoodwinked. Unrest has brewed in many areas such as Spain (straining under a 21% unemployment rate), London and in some Gulf Region states. Conference speaker, London Business School professor Lynda Gratton, noted the most troubling aspect of this crisis: the lasting effect of youth unemployment. Ms. Gratton states that early unemployment could blight a career for decades going forward. Social media can be an effective tool for peer-to-peer learning and career navigation. Another speaker, Director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, pointed to technology’s empowering role in “the Arab Spring” and in the growth of global entrepreneurship. However the pitfall of hyper-connectivity is an awareness of inequality and relative social stance, possibly causing even more angst to struggling college educated youth.

Crimson Oak’s insights and take-aways on how not to be commoditized:

  • Internships and global volunteerism are invaluable, during college and immediately post-college. They offer a solid start to a business career. Seek them – paid and unpaid. If necessary, create them.
  • Be wary against social media’s downside: breeding relative discontent rather than inspiring the personal drive to succeed with the resources on hand.
  • The appropriate eco-system is essential for technology-enabled innovation or entrepreneurship to better your chances of success. Check out the global rankings of your country’s technological eco-system in the annual Global Information Technology Report (PDF). Re-locate, visit or find partners in those areas that are more conducive to your venture.



A dismal economy has historically swayed many young professionals and seasoned professionals to distinguish themselves by attending graduate school. But today the worth of attending business school, in particular attending mid and lower tier schools, has been called into question. More skeptical American aspirants and their global counterparts are clamoring for more global and pragmatic MBA programs. Business schools have responded to market demands of students and companies to embrace an even more global philosophy. Insead – “the world’s business school” – has sought to become even more global as it is currently considering expanding from its campuses of France and Singapore to include one in the U.S. Conference speaker, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria stated that he has instituted an unprecedented policy of mandatory participation in a global immersion program for all HBS students during their first year. HBS’ re-commitment to having a global mind-set is representative of many the top tier schools who are infusing a more global perspective in faculty, research, locations and student body. Despite the overall skeptism, demand has swollen the applicant rolls of the most elite business schools, with acceptance rates tightening over the past year.

Crimson Oak’s insights and take-aways on how not to be commoditized:

  • More than a number – After a certain level, the GMAT or GRE score serves more as a threshold than a key differentiator to your candidacy. As an applicant, focus more on polishing your narrative.
  • Global Projects – Although not all of us work on cross-border M&A transactions, most of your projects will have global implications. Re-focus projects in a global context.
  • Research World Topics – Increasingly during admissions interviews MBA aspirants are being asked to weigh-in on a national debate or global topic. Be aware and develop a persuasive point of view on global topics.


Flat-footed – the word often gets used in describing the feeling felt by millions of Americans who have been caught off-guard by the pace and depth of the Great Recession. Experienced, “credentialized” workers face the same global labor marketplace as their younger counter-parts. Across the globe, there has been a rapid compression of the different age strata in titles, wages and knowledge base. Conference speaker, McDonald’s Global Chief Human Resources Officer, Rich Floersch noted that many workplaces are becoming more multi-generational with skill gaps across the ranks. For corporations the dual challenge of multi-generational integration and geographic harmonization is daunting. A commitment to life-long learning by individuals and building learning facilities by corporations is needed regardless of worker credential or executive title. Conference speaker, LinkedIN CEO, Jeff Weiner, also noted the benefits of digital networks such as peer-to-peer learning. GE’s sustained investing in its heralded Leadership Institute, Tata Sons’ focus on learning as a key for retention and Wall Street’s continued willingness to fund promising employee’s Executive MBA programs are examples of a growing trend of corporations filling the gap in learning and skills for their workforce.

Crimson Oak’s insights and take-aways on how not to be commoditized:

  • Innovation - At the core of innovation is a willingness to experiment, learn and repeat. Small experiments at the individual level can yield valuable information as to your tolerance and distinctive areas of aptitude. Elements of the process for start-up innovation captured in Harvard Entrepreneur-in-Residence Eric Reis’ book The Lean Start-Up can be applied to the individual.
  • Personal Brand – Your character, values, skills and authenticity combine to create your personal brand. In proclamations of “investing in your personal brand”, what often goes un-uttered is of equal significance – your audience selection. It is critical that you select an audience – i.e. peers, company, graduate school, city or country – that will appreciate and amplify your brand.
  • Social Capital – Building social capital, nowadays, seems to start with having a coherent digital profile and representative digital network. For a manageable subset of your network, deeper nurturing of this niche is necessary. Note an integrated cross-section of age groups within your network is beneficial for new connections and fresh, distinct perspectives.


Bank of America’s recent announcement of shedding 30,000 employees, primarily from the U.S., is indicative of the seismic re-balancing occurring in the name of efficiency. Outsourcing has progressed beyond call centers to such functions as research and analysis are being shipped to lower labor cost regions of India and Eastern Europe. The peril for developed nations is one of reticence and stubborn expectations in the face of a more dynamic, “free-agent” global marketplace. The recent riots of London are instructive. The flux in the global talent marketplace has caused real pitfalls and sharp pain points.

Conversely, the change has increased opportunity for many worldwide. The promise of today was captured by another conference speaker, The Ladders CEO Mark Cenedella who described the time period in which we live as “magical”. Smart phones, electric cars, access to almost infinite information and increased transparency are some of the amazing off springs of Globalization. However, the most magical of factors remains your intangible human potential. Maintain the magic. Grow & Lead.