Conventional wisdom would have us believe that to be a truly global enterprise, organizations need to “think global and act local”. This is deeply mistaken. The more successful global companies turn this old maxim on its head. Executives in these firms “think local”, i.e. how can the various locations in which they operate offer distinct knowledge, nurture strong distinctive local skills and benefit from those in other subsidiaries, and “act global” to share and integrate dispersed new learning and skills of value to other units.
To “think local and act global” calls for much stronger boundary spanning internally and externally at both the organizational and individual level. For this purpose, boundary spanning can be thought of as a flexible coordination process to reconcile and integrate different tasks and value-creating processes that have both local and global features. Like a rubber band which holds things together, it can stretch and twist within limits to let a company avail itself of both global and local sources of advantage.