In an increasingly complex world, the issues to be addressed require new, innovative and increasingly sophisticated solutions. This issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel includes a discussion of two subjects that, at first blush, are separate and distinct from one another: Scandinavia and diversity.There is a connection: we all live in one world.
Our Special Section on Scandinavia is introduced by an interview of Johan Løvald, Norway's Ambassador to the United Nations. His comments on multilateralism in the international arena and the pressing need for greater participation in the discussion of globalization have their origin in his country's past as a trading nation.Norway's - and Scandinavia's - economy is based upon interacting with others.On its own, Scandinavia is a small market, and as a consequence international shipping and trade have been crucial to the peace and prosperity of the region. That fact has informed Scandinavia's perception of the world for centuries. If globalization is irreversible at this point, Ambassador Løvald says, we nevertheless need to achieve a worldwide meeting of the minds on its meaning for those who have not shared, to date, in its benefits.
All of our articles and interviews on diversity this month stress diversity as a resource.Inclusion, among many other things, is a way of enhancing expertise; it enables a law firm or a legal department to look at, and address, issues in ways that may not have been available in the past. It is no surprise that this is a theme discussed with considerable knowledge by Ingar Skaug, the head of the Norwegian corporation Wilh. Wilhelmsen, the largest shipping enterprise in the world.With operations in some 60 countries and more than 17,000 employees across the enterprise - of whom a mere 850 are Norwegian - this is an organization of astonishing diversity. It has developed a system of strong corporate values to utilize its diverse workforce. Em-powerment, mutual respect, a collaborative work ethic and cross-cultural teams as a primary vehicle to accomplish the work of the organization are goals that are actively pursued, and not merely platitudes to be invoked and forgotten.
As one of our interviewees this month makes abundantly clear, diversity is the right thing to do.He goes on to point out that it also makes good business sense. It is an intriguing proposition: that diversity enables a law firm or a legal department, or, indeed, any organization comprised of people from different backgrounds, to analyze and deal with the issues before it in new and different ways. Diversity simply taps into a multitude of potential responses to those issues. Achieving the goals of diversity enables a diverse group of people to work together in a collegial spirit and to bring to the resolution of the problems they faceall of the varied resources that people who come from different backgrounds possess. It is both means and ends. Diversity in a law firm's ranks, for example, enables the firm to operate in a diverse marketplace, on behalf of diverse clients and on increasingly complex issues. It makes for a better work product. Or, in Ambassador Løvald's words, achieving a common meeting ground in which diverse nations with seemingly different interests can work together and in a spirit of good will makes it at least possible to contemplate the resolution of the global issues before all of us.
Robert L. Duncan
Published February 1, 2004.