Typically businesses expand overseas for reasons that have nothing to do with diversity. They do it for lower costs, access to new markets, and (I sometimes suspect) to give their executives a reason to travel to cool places.
Even so, many who go overseas find it a difficult process.
Cultural misunderstandings and lack of coordination often drive down productivity and depress morale. In fact, there are companies that exist solely to help manage international offices.
I happen to work in an organization that is almost comically global. While my company is on the larger end, that wasn't always the case. We now have people in a dozen countries ranging from Brazil and Costa Rica to Hungary and Singapore.
I won't lie, it's not all puppies and rainbows. Getting out of bed in the middle of the night to take a call is a common occurrence--and exactly as miserable as it sounds.
And if you haven't tried to wrap your head around global daylight savings time, don't bother. Your head will thank you.
That said, most of us are familiar with the advantages of diverse teams. Studies have repeatedly shown that teams with people from different backgrounds and with gender diversity perform better than homogenous ones.
But does the advantage of team diversity trump the logistical and cultural problems that come with working globally?
To understand the answer to this question, we can't merely look at productivity. I'd be lying if I said that that has never impacted by time zones. It has.
But, you also have to look at the total value of global diversity. There we see that while some activities may suffer from jet lag, a geographically dispersed team is overall a huge plus.
As your company grows, here are the four biggest reasons to think beyond borders:
Geographically-dispersed teams are more effective than advertised
In a recent study, researchers looked at the quality of academic papers produced by authors who were not living in the same city. It found that on average they received more citations (which is how you measure effectiveness in the Ivory Tower) than those from teams in the same place.
Anecdotally, I've also found this to be the case. If we have our Costa Rica office working with our New York one, we tend to sleep easier about it.
Geography enriches culture
A lot of companies today have tried to build diverse work forces. But you can double down on diversity by adding countries into the mix. It makes for good conversation and sharpens peoples' minds for complex problem solving.
It provides perspective
We tend to think of the Western world as technologically advanced, with all others trailing. But in reality, different geographies and cultures have all found their way through the modern world, often devising their own innovations along the way.
Our company benefits a lot from exposure to different ideas and ways of working. In particular, our offices in China and Singapore, where digital technology is in many ways far ahead of the West, have really opened our eyes to what the future might look like.
It drives innovation
Many times innovation happens simply because you bring a new perspective to an old problem. When one office gets in a rut, our colleagues in another often have a ready way to push their thinking forward.
Obviously, no one relishes 3 a.m. calls--especially when you wake up at 2 a.m. because you forgot which part of Australia does daylight saving time (the South, incidentally).
But if you look at the overall advantages, working globally is a big plus. And, yes, I do like going to cool places too.
About Shane Atchison