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Alumni Spotlight: Karina R. Jensen and Global Innovation

Wednesday, November 21, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Heather Blahnik
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Karina R. Jensen, an AIESEC alum from San Jose (‘90), is the author of the book Leading Global Innovation as well as Professor of Global Innovation and Leadership and the Practice Director at the Centre for Leadership and Effective Organizations at NEOMA Business School in France.  She is also the Managing Director and Founder of Global Minds Network, a consultancy focused on global innovation and cross-cultural collaboration.  Karina has spent her professional career helping companies be successful in international markets. When she observed that many companies fail in international expansion or product launches, she set out to develop a new framework and solutions which take into account today’s international, multicultural and digitally connected world.  

Read more about Karina’s research and framework below.


What are the key challenges in increasing multicultural collaboration?

At the individual level, leaders and team members need to have an open mind and appreciation for culturally diverse talent and knowledge.  At the team and organizational levels, leaders need to find ways to create a common vision and engage their team across cultures and geographies. From my research, I’ve found the key four challenges when trying to facilitate team collaboration include trust-building, team participation, interactive dialogue, and understanding and support of global strategy. This is particular to multicultural teams.

What are some strategies that companies can implement to get the most from multicultural teams? How can it work well?

Through my research, I have found that in order for teams to collaborate better and for team members to have cultural understanding and empathy, there are three collaboration drivers - vision, dialogue, and space.  These drivers make up what I call the Multicultural Innovation Framework.

  • Vision requires leadership and strategic co-creation. Leaders need to be more inclusive and place importance on engaging team members so that every team member can participate and share their knowledge.  This involves strategic co-creation very early on in any project where team members can be engaged and included. This ensures that any solution includes their knowledge and experience.

  • Dialogue requires knowledge-sharing and cross-cultural learning. Communication with multicultural teams demands increased interaction through social networking, knowledge-sharing, and cross-cultural learning.  The aim is to pay attention to what is different in local markets and ensure that team members contribute their ideas about local market needs or practices.

  • Space requires a global innovation culture and team climate. A global innovation culture should be shaped by organizational values that include cultural empathy and creativity and collaboration. Having an innovation climate enables the network and connection to international customers and markets.

Paying attention to these key collaboration drivers can facilitate multicultural collaboration and accelerate global innovation performance.

How can companies capture innovative ideas from different markets, move between global and local and create a better global innovation culture and climate?

Leaders need to serve as knowledge facilitators and innovation orchestrators in order to succeed in a multicultural and networked business environment. In moving from concept to market, leaders and teams need to listen to local market voices in order to co-create solutions that truly bring value to customers and markets around the world. This requires an inverted collaboration process, moving from local to global rather than global to local. Start with local market engagement and co-creation of ideas and knowledge with country teams, then move to global HQ in order to integrate and shape international concepts and strategies.

In creating a global innovation culture and team climate, organizations should optimize three key levers – cultural empathy, creativity, and collaboration. Cultural empathy involves a focus on teamwork and culturally diverse talent. Creativity involves a focus on innovative thinking and entrepreneurial initiative.  Collaboration requires transparency and knowledge-sharing. Organizations that master multicultural collaboration will accelerate global innovation performance and international market success.

Which companies are doing this well?  

One company that is doing this well is Philips (Dutch multinational), a world leader in healthcare-consumer lifestyle and lighting products.  They ensure inclusive leadership and strategic co-creation through cross-cultural and cross-functional collaboration across business units and geographies. Whenever a new project is launched, leaders take a world-wide tour to the key target markets where they share their ideas and vision, followed by ideation sessions where local team can contribute to the process and give their perspective.  This co-creation ensures that the best possible strategies and products are developed for those markets.

Another example is Wipro (Indian multinational), a global IT consulting and business process services company. They have launched global co-creation work spaces called “Digital Pods” that allow cross-cultural and cross-functional teams to move from problem-solving to new disruptive digital solutions within a 24-hour period. Through multicultural team collaboration and attention to local customer needs, Wipro has created a strong innovation culture and team climate for increased market responsiveness and execution efficiency.

Some other examples that I talk about in my book are Adobe, Siemens and Cisco, among others.  Each have identified and launched different strategies for cross-cultural team collaboration and innovation.  

I see that you are working on a project in Nepal.  Could you tell me more about it?

A few years ago, I did some volunteer work for an orphanage in Nepal and it drew my attention to social innovation in developing countries.  I asked the founder of the orphanage how we can help these children and he said that they needed support in their transition out of the orphanage upon becoming adults.  I worked with two colleagues and we developed the ENACT Social Entrepreneurship Program, which we will launch next year in Kathmandu.  It will be an accelerated program where for two weeks we will bring in youth from disadvantaged communities and pair them with students from the local business school and teach them skills in entrepreneurship.  Entrepreneurship has great power and opportunity and we want these young people to be able to see opportunities in their local communities and have the skills to start their own businesses.  


Karina is a specialist in global innovation, leadership and multi-cultural collaboration.  She said that AIESEC was a key part in igniting her interest in these fields and for giving her life-long friends.  Thank you Karina for sharing your knowledge and experience with us!

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