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December 13, 2011

Global Mindset

by marcobuchbinder

A global mindset is a set of capabilities that can dramatically accelerate a business leader’s ability to develop and foster successful relationships across multiple cultures.

Here is the challenge: In most societies, most citizens are raised and socialized to deal and work with people who are like them, so they develop uni-cultured lens to help them understand and interpret their surroundings. This has worked well in the past, but today, employees and executives are required to work with people who are different from them and have different cultural backgrounds.

Moreover, global trade has dramatically increased over the last decade, while the US, Europe and Asia have increased their economical interdependency. Moving forward, emerging markets will account for the majority of the global growth over the next 20-30 years, so the need for companies to become more global has never been more important than today.  

But, it’s important to note, more global doesn’t necessarily mean only having customers and subsidiaries in international markets.  It also refers to a company’s culture and ability to deal with multiple cultures, languages and socio-economical dynamics. In a recent survey of senior executives in 100 global corporations conducted by Worldwide ERC, 95% of the respondents reported that national cultures of the places they do business in play an important or very important role in the success of their business mission.

A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to meet with Mansour Javidan, the Dean of Research, a Garvin Distinguished Professor, and Director the Global Mindset Leadership Institute at Thunderbird School of Global Management. Thunderbird University has been synonymous with global leadership in business education and was ranked #1 “Best in International Business” Full-time MBA by the Financial Times and U.S. News & World Report 2012 (16th consecutive #1 ranking).

I was participating in an Executive Global Mindset Assessment conducted by Mansour and his team at EMC. It was then that I first learned of Thunderbird’s ambitious goal of developing a program to develop the effective global leader. Thunderbird’s approach has been unique.

Throughout the last five years, Thunderbird has interviewed more than 200 global executives and surveyed more than 6,000 managers, resulting in a set of individual qualities that are critical for leaders of tomorrow. They refer to the collection of this output as global mindset. The Global Mindset® Inventory, a scientific self-assessment developed at Thunderbird, takes much of the guesswork out of what skills and aptitudes a manager needs to thrive in unfamiliar markets with people from diverse backgrounds. Leaders that have a high level of Global Mindset are more likely to succeed in working with other people from other cultures. As Thunderbird defines it, having a Global Mindset requires:

  1. Intellectual capital: Global business savvy, cognitive complexity, cosmopolitan outlook
  2. Psychological capital: Passion for diversity, quest for adventure, self-assurance
  3. Social capital: Intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact, diplomacy

According to Mansour,

Leaders with a strong stock of Global Mindset know about cultures and political and economic systems in other countries and understand how their global industry works. They are passionate about diversity and are willing to push themselves. They are comfortable with being uncomfortable in uncomfortable environments. They are also better able to build trusting relationships with people who are different from them by showing respect and empathy and by being good listeners.


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