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Why Think Global, Act Local is no longer enough

By Luis Gallardo - March 15, 2011

Dttl_greenlightbulb_180x258Think Global, Act Local, commonly referred to as Global-Local or Glocal, is more than just a tagline describing the cross-border pollination of ideas and products of today’s global economy. It was originally used as a rallying cry for people to consider the health of the entire planet and take action in their communities. Today, it takes on a much broader context—from environmental, to public policy, to business—many have even embraced the Think Global, Act Local mantra as the philosophical foundation of running a successful global brand.

But why exactly are political pundits and global economists drawn to the ideals of this ubiquitous framework? Does it really provide the context for which organizations and businesses of all sizes can respond to rapid shifts within our economies of scale?

From my point of view, up to now, Think Global, Act Local has only scratched the surface of this tremendously complex issue. What we need now is a 360-degree view of how we can best prepare businesses for sustained, long-term profitable growth. What we need now is to Think Holistic, Act Personal.

Global vs. Holistic

Simply put, global is too broad and undefined. It implies that we should standardize and lead from the center, so that we can better drive efficiencies that meet the burgeoning demands of local markets. This is in stark contrast with thinking holistically, which I define as the ability to take into account complex linkages and inter-connections in order to facilitate decision-making of the highest order.

It is no longer enough to “think global,” we must:

  • Gain appreciation of the world at large, and in turn, know how to best position organizations to win the supreme jackpot of sustained profit and growth
  • Capture interlocking elements, interdependencies, and synergies of the commercial environment. 

After all, with brand as the pathway to value and gaining the recognition organizations deserve in the marketplace, what better way to drive that distinction than by thinking holistically about business?

Local vs. Personal

Similar to thinking globally, acting locally does not touch upon the essence of human behavior—what we do or don’t do in response to change, challenge, and the status quo. Acting personal, however, mirrors human dynamics and the multi-dimensional profile of each individual. Act personal allows you to engineer communities, making messages and actions a relevant and timely response to the big picture needs of people.

At Deloitte, we see the benefits of acting personal in our social media efforts every day. Addressing the individual concerns and aspirations of our stakeholders—talking to them about what they really care about—drives the engagement to boost client and employee satisfaction, retention, profits, and multi-stakeholder advocacy. It has the capacity to not just act, but to deliver “happiness” with each experience.

Thinking holistically about the recent tragedy that occurred in Japan last week, we can't forget to consider how one tsunami has caused nearly half of the world's most developed countries to reassess their nuclear strategy. The need to act local must be replaced with the need to act personal in order to go beyond action in our communities and address the specific needs of human suffering and post traumatic stress.

Share with me your thoughts on Think Holistic, Act Personal—tweet me @lgallardo or post a comment below. Do these terms help sustain growth and eradicate major challenges such as poverty, education or sustainability related to business or the environment?

Luis Gallardo is the Managing Director of Global Brand & Marketing at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. He believes that Think Holistic, Act Personal is the key to helping businesses succeed in today’s global economy.


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well done on a timely post. The key is to ensure folks act and take responsibility for our collective direction. I think Global is better understood than your premise suggests - the real issue is so many are mere spectators - and spectators never really understand. So, for my money, engagement is the imperative. I couldn't agree more therefore with the 'Personal' aspect of the call to action. As you develop thoughts around this, I'd encourage you to 'dial up' the responsibility dimension. Also, to motivate our communities to take the right lesson here and to do something, it would be helpful to further articulate the from/to journey and I don't mean the GLAG to TLAP! looking forward to more in this thread.

Thanks for your comments, Nabeel and Sthephanie. Especially when we have “global” jobs, it is very easy to get lost in translation and try to use stereotypes and assumptions to make sense of the word around us -- and worse, if we do not think holistically and act personally.

Self-Identity is a must for human beings. Its fulfillment is only achieved when we feel recognized for our efforts, and when we realize that we do things with a purpose. Behind any commercial transaction there is an emotional decision much more important than any rational one. This has been proved with extensive research and understanding that fact is the beginning for acting personal. There are many so called decision-making and behavioral biases. For example, Bias blind spot – the tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people or Distinction bias – the tendency to view two options as more dissimilar when evaluating them simultaneously than when evaluating them separately, as well as Social biases such as Ingroup bias – the tendency for people to give preferential treatment to others they perceive to be members of their own groups…there are hundreds of studied biases, not understanding them is a big barrier to acting personal.

You mentioned too the importance of gaining appreciation of the world at large and the ability to take into account complex linkages and inter-connections when we make decisions. That is the core of the General Systems theory, first introduced by Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy in 1949. As a biologist he was able to explain how systems are simiar to a cell, a tribe or a multinational behaving under the same rules-- rules that can only be understood if we look at them as a whole, much more than the sum of its parts. This becomes specially relevant for multinational organizations when they try to align their service lines, industries, functions and internal departments towards a common business strategy. Most members of the multinational will have a partial view of their own department or function and will try to influence the overall strategy through their own goals. However, the overall success of a business strategy depends upon de fact of understanding the ecosystems that surround the organization and taking a holistic approach towards it.

Six Brands come quickly to my mind that are being able to create ecosystems and understand and act effectively upon human behaviors; Amazon, Netflix, Ebay, Apple, Lego and Zara. They operate in different industries but they all have tapped into the holistic-personal philosophy. I could write for hours about them but let’s leave it for another blog.


i agree that standardizing on a global level is futile. I mean some standardization is possible but it depends on the context. You can standardize quality of your global product, but marketing strategy is based on the local markets and the local audience. And this is where I relate to your statement, "ability to take account complex linkages and inter-connections"

I loved when you said, "Gain appreciation of the world at large" ... from a non business point of view, it tells me to appreciate and embrace other cultures.

It would be great if you could share some personal examples/stories that meets the outlined philosophy.

Luis, thanks for the great post. I've always been a fan of "think global, act local." Now I have a new slogan to follow. Your points make excellent sense in terms of how thinking on a personal level can drive major changes. I love the idea of delivering happiness with everything we do. I work in our Deloitte Global Consulting Knowledge Management team and frequently put into play the ideas of thinking holistically and personally about the impact of the work I do on a daily basis. Thinking about ourselves in the context of our virtual communities is also an important aspect of how we sustain growth, eradicate major challenges and deliver happiness.

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