The "global" in Portolan Global

In the previous (and first) episode of John’s Musings, I spoke about where the word “portolan” comes from and why I chose it as a theme for the company. Part of the attraction (in addition to my own passion for antiques maps and map-making) is its double meaning. A portolan is a guide to safe harbours, away from shoals and dangers. Similarly, it symbolizes our company’s promise: to provide clients with accurate, goal-oriented direction for success.

“Global” too has a double meaning. It refers to the diplomatic and international policy experience we offer. For the past 30 years, I have been engaged in foreign and security policy – from leading the first Open Skies overflight of a Warsaw Pact country (Hungary) by a NATO aircraft (a Canadian CF-130 Hercules). I was part of the successful Canadian diplomacy of the late 1980s to build confidence and security between East and West, helping through carefully prepared and effective initiatives. From my LSE doctorate in International Relations through policy planning at NATO and chairing the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency as Canada’s Ambassador, my outlook has professionally always been global.

But a global perspective is also an intellectual disposition, a propensity to look at things strategically, whether they be at the level of national interest and balance of power – or in a commercial or market environment. Finding opportunities which have lain unseen, imagining paths overlooked by others, realistically assessing interests in a competitive world – these require holistic thinking. They require a strategic approach, a “global” insight. We examine the vista from the crow’s nest, swivelling 360 degrees to gain the perspective needed to plot the course ahead.

Well, these may be evocative images, but how do they actually work? How would we bring a strategic approach to a crowded policy arena in assessing national or corporate interests? What happens, for example, when clean energy, climate change, technology, and security jostle together? What does a “global” view offer us? 

That’s the subject of John’s Musings next.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi and me - 11 Feb 2020