Global management provides the knowledge, skills and flair to fight the challenges of globalization
A few years ago a museum in Geneva was about to embark on an exhibition of an ancient Roman port. Artefacts for the display were ordered from Italy and work was underway for the grand opening night. In preparation for the arrival of the artefacts, the museum’s management meticulously started preparing a mountain’s worth of documents relating to each and every object. But a mishap occurred.
When the Italian representatives arrived, it turned out – to the fury of the Swiss – that they hadn’t been doing their part of the paperwork and the exhibition would not be able to go ahead. The Italians didn’t understand what the Swiss were worrying about; they were simply looking for a handshake to seal the deal.
Globalization means we are engaging in increasingly more cross-border transactions and, subsequently, the risk for such cultural misunderstandings increases.
Cultural relativity in business
If globalization has been in existence for hundreds of years, why is it only lately that it has been brought in to the business classroom? There are two possible reasons for this. Firstly, a global business does not always mean you physically being there. Often, it’s virtual – your supply chain may be in China and your product development base in India. Such dynamics of distance and culture increase the challenges exponentially and require additional management expertise.
Secondly, a large part of the answer lies in the increasing impact of business ethics. Let’s take business ethics to mean examining the ethical issues that may arise out of business practices. In a globalized world, the cultural relativity of ethics comes into play. One ethical framework can no longer dominate or be imposed across a global marketplace. Sustainable success requires a responsible analysis by a savvy corporate citizen of the world.
In the past two years this concern has justly found itself a place on the management education agenda. Having witnessed the defects of modern capitalism and its estrangement from the system of values in which it was born, perhaps it’s time to open our eyes to new frames of reference. The opening speech at the recent World Economic Forum Meeting saw French President Sarkozy cry out for a re-engineering of capitalism. To carry on with a short-term perspective for short-term gain is irresponsible. If the inbalances of globalization fuelled the financial crisis, it’s a sign that the traditional Western dominance over huge economies such as Africa, India and Latin America must change. It’s about restoring the moral dimension of capitalism and globalization.
Strategic boundary crossing
Respecting one’s international peers, however, is more than an ethical code of conduct and humanitarian well-thinking. Before we get sidetracked too much into the moral domain, a global corporate outlook is a winning and imperative strategic concern for your company. Being globally aware adds another dimension to how you conduct business, allows you to better communicate with your international associates and broadens your business knowledge base.
To make globalization as successful as possible there needs to be an understanding, appreciation and respect of other cultures’ business practices. If this were simply a modern moral dilemma, it would be reserved for the local village evening philosophy cafe discussions. The fact that it is being taken into the classrooms of executive business schools shows that it’s something that holds true strategic value for the visionary leader. A better understanding of the world not only enriches your personal life but can have huge implications for the efficiency, effectiveness and success of your business.
No space for faux pas
Most business schools touch upon this subject; many have it as key component in their curriculum, but few take it as their overarching principle. Any business school can graduate world-class students, entrepreneurs or managers, but how many can actually give the world socially conscious business people who are also globally aware?
One institution that has established itself on the reigns of international management is Thunderbird School of Global Management. Its flagship campus is in Phoenix, Arizona, but to further spread its wings of knowledge, it has recently set up a base in Geneva in collaboration with The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. Thunderbird faculty travel monthly to Europe to deliver the programme in the form of one-week modules over a period of 11 months and the Institute complements Thunderbird’s expertise with guest professors.
How does Thunderbird know that it truly prepares its students for the international world? Extensive research at the institution led to the development of a Global Mindset Inventory assessment, whose three components include psychological, intellectual and social capital. These are integrated into the programme to give leaders the ability to influence individuals, groups, organizations and systems that are unlike their own.
Psychological capital entails a passion for diversity, quest for adventure and self-assurance. When you have intellectual capital, you’ll be seen by others as being global business savvy, having a cosmopolitan outlook and a cognitive complexity. Social capital requires one to have intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact and diplomacy.
Leaders who have these qualities do not just have global ambitions for their companies but, as people, they are good at decoding what’s going on around them in cross-cultural environments and choosing the right behaviour under the right set of circumstances. Thunderbird knows too well that this “Global Mindset” cannot be learnt entirely in a classroom, which is why students partake in field seminars in locations such as Peru, Chile, Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates as part of the programme. Being on location allows cultural assimilation and networking opportunities with top business leaders across locations and sectors.
The most important and unique aspect of Thunderbird’s programme is that it furnishes its students with the soft skills needed to emotionally and socially engage in the global business community: ie cross-cultural negotiations and communications, understanding the particular nuances of regional business environments and globally applicable leadership skills.
Article by Ardie Guadeloupe