Greetings. Geography is something that many of us know very little about and all too often take for granted. As individuals we often struggle to find the location of countries and events on the map. As businesses we often fail to appreciate both the obvious and subtle differences of people, customs, and markets in other lands. And as nations we often enter conflicts lacking a clear sense of the power of place and the value of local knowledge.
I realized this dilemma many years ago as a geography major in college. Every time I mentioned my chosen field to friends' parents and other adults, they would invariably ask if I knew all the state capitals. To them, studying something like geography seemed a bit trivial. "I actually do know all the state capitals," I would respond, "but geography is so much more than that!" In fact, we can trace many of our successes as individuals, organizations, and nations to our relative knowledge of geography. But that's a topic for another post or two. Though it is worth noting that, in the absence of geography, humans would have never gotten lost (and male humans would have never had to ask for directions).
But seriously, today I'd like you to think about one simple aspect of geography that can support your business success. It's the reality that anyplace, or any company for that matter, can be at the center of the earth with a bit of creative thinking and thoughtful marketing. South Africa is a prime example. While it is a nation that is growing in importance, it's somewhat off the beaten path and not that close to where most of us live. But for a month this summer much of the world's attention will be focused on this country for one simple reason. The World Cup. The single most engaging sports event on the planet. And this will create a truly compelling opportunity for South Africa to showcase its great progress, people, culture, cities, natural beauty, history, and future possibilities. It will also be a chance to show its growing marketplace, emerging technologies, and business potential. In the same way, other places become the center of the world by being home to something that matters to a significant group of people or hosting an important event. Take the small and delightful Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, home to only a few thousand people, but renowned as the "Antique Book Capital of the World." Or Elko, Nevada, the setting for the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
So the question is: "How do you and your organization get to be the center of the world for those you choose to serve?"
We win in business by rearranging the globe in a way that puts us at the very center. And then making it easy for everyone to find us. What will you do in the year ahead to use geography to unlock your genius? Maybe it's time to learn more about geography than simply the state capitals.