TOLERANCE, KNOWLEDGE, AND SKILLS

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First and foremost, a global mindset requires a mental attitude that is characterized by tolerance—a sensitive awareness of the beliefs and practices of other peoples that differ from or conflict with one’s own. Tolerance means accepting the cultural peculiarities of another group of people as being equally as valid as your own, and not looking down on them as being “inferior?’ The first step in developing tolerance toward other cultures is to understand their histories.

Consider the cautious attitude of Japanese businesspeople when doing business with non-Japanese. This cultural trait can be traced back to a largely homogeneous population that lived in a tightly closed society for centuries. A U.S. sales manager who understands the reasons for his Japanese counterpart’s seemingly excessive wariness would not be personally offended by it but would realize that it is simply a cultural manifestation. Second, a global mindset requires international business knowledge and skills.

The type of knowledge and skills required can include the ability to design effective promo-bond strategies abroad, manage an international sales force, manage risk in international financial markets, and communicate effectively across cultures. For instance, senior international marketing managers play a critical role in a firm’s market selection, entry, and penetration decisions, which in turn influence firm performance. Those with greater knowledge and skills in both international marketing and business are more aware of opportunities and threats in the business environment and more capable of managing across borders.

The importance of hiring managers with a global mindset is causing some internationally active companies to apply personality-testing techniques to measure the global aptitude of potential new managers. One test that attempts to capture a person’s attitude of doing business globally is the Global Mentality Test developed by the Intercultural Business Center (www.ib-c.cont). The test evaluates an individual openness and flexibility in mindset, understanding of global principles and terminology, and strategic implementation abilities. It also identifies areas in which improvement and/or additional training is needed and generates a list of recommended training programs.

MAINTAINING A GLOBAL MINDSET

Developing a global mindset is not a one-time event, but is a continual process. Maintaining a global mindset means keeping up on social, cultural, political, and economic events and trends. Consider the continual march toward market-based economics by formerly communist nations. As these countries recreate their economies away from extreme socialist ideals, certain aspects of their cultures are taking on more individualist characteristics. For instance, unlike their parents, young people in Eastern Europe are not guaranteed jobs with their governments or in state-owned firms upon graduation.

Instead, the collapse of communism has meant that it is their individual responsibility (with some basic assistance) to find work after graduation. In some nations, including Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Romania, young people cannot find work. Yet many are taking it upon themselves to find work abroad in the West—often accepting jobs far below their qualifications. These social, political, and economic changes are profoundly affecting international business. Apart from the obvious shifts in demographics, they are affecting people’s attitudes toward, for example, private business, risk-taking, financial markets, product marketing, and human resource management.

The up-to-date manager will be better able to exploit the opportunities that such trends present. Maintaining a global mindset also means not allowing oneself to fall into the trap of stereotyping groups of people as a result of current events.