Global Competency on the Business School Agenda
By S. Tamer Cavusgil
Most of us have experienced a situation where, in a cross-cultural setting, we found the behavior of a foreign national hard to explain. We perceived this behavior to be odd, unusual, or perhaps improper. We may have felt anger or frustration, or at least felt uncomfortable and awkward. These feelings might have interfered with our ability to interact effectively, and might even have led to a breakdown in communication.
We accept our own culture and its ways as the norm. Everything else may seem strange to us. Our acceptance of our own culture also tends to condition how we react to different behavior, systems or values. This subconscious reference to our own way of doing things is known as self-reference criterion.
Understanding this phenomenon is an effective first step in avoiding cultural bias. All of us must display a more objective reaction to cultural differences by developing empathy for other points of view. In addition, we must gain a certain degree of cross-cultural understanding and knowledge.
To be an effective manager in today’s global environment it is vital to be able to work productively across cultures, interacting competently with people of other cultures and backgrounds. Global competency refers to the ability to navigate, communicate and interrelate effectively when encountering cultural differences. Global competency enables us to reduce risk and maximize opportunities while achieving results in culturally complex situations.
The J. Mack Robinson College of Business piloted a project to improve global competency with an undergraduate class this spring. Our goal was to demonstrate that a measurable impact could be made on the professional development of Robinson graduates as globally competent leaders.
Forty-five students completed a variety of assignments. These included work on intercultural effectiveness, a personal development report and country briefings. Guest speakers were invited to share their insights on global competency.
Late in the semester, students received a survey to measure the effectiveness of the class. Ample evidence indicated substantial learning and impact on the part of the students. Students said that they enjoyed discovering new cultures and ways to improve their aptitude to interact with them. This fall, we plan to offer this material with several other undergraduate business classes.
Tamer Cavusgil is the Fuller E. Callaway Professorial Chair and executive director of Georgia State University’s Center for International Business Education and Research.