Understanding (and possibly memorizing) maps and flags may be more important than you think
Updated: Aug 7
While this may seem like an unusual and ludicrous thing to suggest for businesses and business leaders, there are several ways it could change the way you see and understand the world, highlighting the importance of geography in business:
The world is increasingly data-driven and heavily visualization-focused. Maps are a commonly used tool to showcase business presence globally. Suppose you do not understand what is where you are incredibly handicapped from the beginning. This emphasizes the importance of geography in business.
Most infographics we see today do not have any labels for countries, often leaving the viewer to assess the map purely by the silhouette of the country, rendering the data for the less aware essentially redundant.
A lot of flags in the world look uncannily similar and can leave ample room for public gaffes that can be both offensive and damaging to your business and personal reputation. This situation underscores the need for cultural sensitivity in business.
Businesses that are spread over a globe and a country are often impacted very directly by geography - physical topography can affect supply chains, product demand, culture, water supply, resource availability, and consumer behavior. It helps to connect the dots and understand how geography affects consumer behavior.
Geography determines health, nutrition, and development. Why is it that the world's richest and most developed nations are generally away from the equator and more so in the northern hemisphere? Climate breeds disease and favors vectors like mosquitos which plague the health of locals, reducing their productivity and keeping the entire country from deploying more energy and resources on education and infrastructure that improve quality of life and incomes. The kind of crops that can be grown also varies by geography, determining nutrition and, therefore, population growth and size. This illustrates how geography affects consumer behavior.
As I say repeatedly, geopolitics is fast becoming the mother of business as we head into Cold War 2.0. Understanding geography and the corresponding politics can help you uncover the strategic importance of something as seemingly unrelated as Taiwan's semiconductor industry to world/regional peace.
Understanding what goes where and therefore understanding geopolitics is like learning a new language; it takes years to determine which string pulls what chord. Some simple ways to build geographical awareness slowly are:
Read maps for the sake of it, just out of curiosity or leisure to know where each city or country is located. This can be seen as a form of mindful travelling for business.
Be mindful when you travel, taking note of where the place you are visiting is on the map and what physical features surround it. This could be a practice of mindful travelling for business.
Observe air routes when you are flying - it is much more educational than it seems, adding to the value of mindful travelling for business.
Pay special attention to geopolitical flash points like the Nine Dash Line (South China Sea), Korean Peninsula, and Indian borders with Pakistan and China. They, too, are products of geography and history. Understanding where they are can help you piece together what is happening there and why. This underscores the importance of geography in business.
Geography has been a driver of human history from the very beginning, determining where and why civilizations cropped up and why some prospered more than others, why some countries were ideal invasion targets, and why some parts of the world continue to struggle with development to this day. cultural sensitivity in business helps in understanding these nuances.
We all have google maps and navigation software, but none of them will be running your business or making strategic decisions for you. There is no substitute for awareness.
A puzzle can't be completed without having all the pieces (in your head).