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The genie is out of the bottle...

Comment
Gordon Boyle


Once again, I’m back in Norway helping young talented executives with their leadership skills. As ever there is a wide spread of attendees from as far away as Japan, the US and the Caribbean to more local countries in Scandinavia and Europe.

It is always a joy to interact with young managers from different countries, industries and cultures. We are today bombarded with negative reports highlighting that nationalism is on the rise whilst at the same time full democracies are in decline.

It seems that the previous support for globalisation is in reverse whilst at the same time we are seeing trade wars breaking out across the world.

Everyone is talking about the failure to agree between the US and China, but we are also witnessing other trade disputes breaking out such as the one between South Korea and Japan.

From the conservations around the table at this leadership workshop many of the young leaders are expressing alarm about this latest nationalism taking place and how it has the potential to destroy the multiculturalism that has taken place over recent years.

Strong feelings were evident when we discussed the introduction of visa restrictions that will not allow talent to flow across the planet freely in order to fill talent vacancies.

As has been the case throughout history talent is a precious requirement such as rare earth minerals and in limited supply.

Political leaders need to understand that talent is not something that is restricted to certain nationalities, religions, ethnic groups, gender, etc.

When I hear of blanket bans on certain nationalities when it comes to issuance of visas or access to institutes of higher education I cringe.

In this inter-connected world with people from different ethnic backgrounds are inter-marrying and bringing up families in third countries.

Many of these countries have behaviours and cultural values very different to the countries where families previously lived for generations.

Today there are around 60 million expatriates spread out across the globe. You may not know but 51 per cent of the population of Toronto, a city with a population of almost 3m, were born outside of Canada.

The genie is out of the bottle and I am so pleased.

Nationalism creates problems and, in some cases, has contributed to wars that have resulted in millions losing their lives. My own country Scotland in 1707 signed an act of union with England and since then have remained together.

This act of union not only brought an end to wars between the two countries but also allowed the economies to develop as well as both countries inter-marrying solidifying the union.

In 1989 the Berlin wall came down and for the first time since the end of the Second World War both Germanys came together to establish the biggest country in Western Europe. Also, the 1990s Balkan conflict has reached a point today where hopefully we can progress to a much better place.

With all the noise about nationalism taking place today led by Donald Trump, behind the scenes, there is not a lot of support for this approach in an increasingly connected world.

Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at gordonboyle@hotmail.com

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