What Does Being Global Really Mean?

Long S. Le

According to the World Savvy’s Global Competency Poll among 502 high school graduates (18-24 years old), young adults are overwhelmingly interested in having, and recognizing the need to develop professional skills for, global literacy in their lives today.

Source: http://www.worldsavvy.org/

At the same time, however, the competency survey reveals that global issues were not regularly discussed in high school, and that instruction appeared to be US-centric and the exposure to the rest of the world was limited. Thus, young adults’ knowledge about globalization is “somewhat lacking.”

Source: http://www.worldsavvy.org/

In business schools, there are increasing efforts to initiate pedagogical strategies and cognitive skills development to support international business curriculum. There are indeed influential business professors who are advancing the above dialogue, setting agenda for continued advancement and sustainability of international business education across the globe. For instance, such educators have acknowledged that US lacks global leaders because they lack cultural empathy that requires a degree of egolessness; many business majors are not required to have adequate functional knowledge in the arts, humanities and languages; and that leaders do lose their way because they lack self-reflection and a system to support centered values-centered leadership.

In moving forward, there has been a significant focus on promoting and developing a global mindset among business majors and business minors. That is, those with a global mindset are able to interpret and decode situations from multiple, even competing, points of view. Moreover, leaders with a global mindset do not exploit one community to benefit another, but rather they bring about prosperity to more in which business is not a zero-sum game.

Limitations of Being Global

However, it has been noted that current managers, business school professors, and business majors have had and shared particular blind spots.

Here, it appears that instilling the above global mindset often reinforces neoliberalism, emphasizing market-readiness and competition. That is, proponents of a global mindset, in general, would recognize rootedness and affiliation but tend to believe the convergence of traditional of self will hybridize and relocate within a hypermarket global economy; or are denationalized and at the same time do not fully embrace global civic sense of responsibility. By contrast, related tenets of a global mindset are also supported by individuals in China, but Chinese citizens are relatively nationalistic about the realities of international politics and sustained economic development. In between are movements, such as citizen actions in Hong Kong’s umbrella revolution, who embrace some versions of localism (i.e., preserving the locality’s distinctiveness) as well as some versions of legal cosmopolitanism (i.e., supporting the conditions of universal hospitality); and on the horizon are hackers who hack for social change in which some are more radical, believing the flow of data they are collecting can result in some ultimate truth.

All to say is that a global mindset whether from neoliberalism, a national perspective, a legal cosmopolitanism or grass-root democracy perspective will have limits (if not negative externalities) in decoding multiple competing points of view.

Not to be overlooked is the potential gap between internationalization and multiculturalism, of which might emerge among business students. A qualitative study by Matthew Mitchell and Darcie Vandergrift at a private university in American Midwest found that some business students, specifically White students, have high levels of enthusiasm for international competency but have much lower level for domestic multiculturalism. In the latter, White students tended to operate from a “colorblind” perspective and saw themselves as the “norm” against which non-White and international students might be compared to. Overall, the study sought to raise awareness for business schools to better prepare students to succeed in increasingly diverse domestic and global work environment.

So what to do with all of the above?

For the first time as an instructor, I started the first day of class – the global and cultural environment of business course – with two assessments. The assessments are both for students and me to become aware of their learning styles using Neil Fleming’s VisualAuralReadKinesthetic (VARK); and to recognize their mindsets using the same focus group’s questionnaire in Mitchell and Vandergrift’s study.

The assessments were informal and exploratory where students could assess their learning styles and where they could assess their own mindsets relative to other students. For me, the assessments were also talking points: 1) how to develop a holistic approach in understanding and becoming competent in local diversity, cross-cultural, and cross-national interactions; and 2) whether preferred learning styles or multi-dimensional learning can facilitate international business skills needed for the global nature of today’s business environment.

In a later blog, I will discuss these two assessments — which are class exercises and not data collection for research publication — how I interpret what students say and adjust class assignments where I steer the path at times and at other times students do the steering.

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