At Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Dr. Roberto Garcia has used the GlobeSmart cultural intelligence platform in his classes over the past 15 years – both at the MBA level (International Competitive Strategies and Cross-Cultural Management) and undergraduate level (Global Business Environments, Global Business Immersion, and Cross-Cultural Management). His students have enthusiastically embraced the power of GlobeSmart, and its success has convinced other faculty at Kelley to use the platform in their classes as well.
Before discovering GlobeSmart, Dr. Garcia was part of a two-member faculty team-teaching a Global Management and Supply Chain course. They used role plays, guest speakers, and case studies to explore the impact of cultural differences in global management and supply chain.
However, the team sensed something was missing with the course. They searched for a tool that provided relevant, practical, and real-world guidance on navigating cultural differences. After finding GlobeSmart, requesting guest access, and exploring GlobeSmart on their own, they concluded that the platform was something their students needed.
They started by purchasing 50 student licensees in their first class. Usage rapidly grew in response to students’ demands to use GlobeSmart in their other courses. The students especially appreciated:
- the ability to complete and reflect on their own cultural profile,
- to chance to compare their cultural profile to other countries,
- the useful business and cultural briefings guidance provided by Culture Guides for 95+ countries, and
- the self-directed learning modules included in GlobeSmart.
Increasing Cultural Self Awareness
Using GlobeSmart is simple for the Kelley students. After students complete a brief survey, GlobeSmart generates their own personal Profile on five cultural orientation continuums: individualism/collectivism, egalitarianism/status, risk/certainty, direct/indirect, and task/relationship.
The profiles generated help the students become aware of their preferences; sometimes, they are surprised that their profile is very similar or very different from their home country. According to Dr. Garcia, after a bit of reflection – and reviewing the personalized feedback provided in their report – things usually become more apparent after the students consider their formational experiences.
Dr. Garcia finds the profile becomes especially powerful when discussing individual students’ profiles and the related dimensions after observing their behavior class and case discussions. He reminds the students that their Profile reflects the results of how they responded to the survey that asked for their preferences in 40 culturally related situations. Afterward, he shares his observations regarding their interaction with others in the class.
For example, a student was surprised that his profile indicated he was task-oriented when he very much valued building relationships. The student had an “a-ha” moment when Roberto shared that he always came to case discussions with his own agenda and was not the least bit curious about his professor and his classmates’ well-being.
Increasing Global Knowledge
When students compare their personal profiles to other countries, they begin to understand the specifics of effective leadership, interpersonal relations, decision-making, communication, and task orientation. GlobeSmart does not just identify the gaps in the comparisons; it includes practical guidance on ways to mitigate the gaps through style switching (i.e., behaving differently from their preference) in specific situations.
Students often come into case discussions believing that culture is secondary to having the best product at the best price. They often fail to initially recognize the importance of building trust with customers and colleagues from other countries and cultures. Building trust often has its roots in navigating differences in the cultural dimensions of individualism/collectivism, egalitarianism/status, risk/certainty, direct/indirect, and task/relationship.
In class discussions, Dr. Garcia is always mindful to caution the students against stereotyping. For example, when a student from, say, Indianapolis compares himself to China’s profile, he should not assume that all his Chinese counterparts are interdependent, status-oriented, indirect, and focused on building relationships. Instead, the comparisons provide a map of where the differences might be and a framework for future discussion and exploration.
Integrating GlobeSmart into Case Studies
After reading assigned cases, Dr. Garcia has students identify the key cultural issues or problems they observe. He then asks them to explain how GlobeSmart would describe the situation. The final step is to have them use GlobeSmart to develop recommendations for improvement or solution of the cultural issues reflected in the case.
For example, in a Harvard Business School case concerning a U.S. company doing business in China, he will have the students compare their own profiles to China and the U.S., explore the key differences between the U.S. and China, and review the Culture Guides for both countries. After reflection, the insights provided help them realize the American executive central to the case will have to change his behavior if he wants to succeed in China.
What the Students Say about GlobeSmart
Many of Dr. Garcia’s MBA students are managers with large international companies who often lead international teams; they come into his class with a lot of experience in this regard. Often he hears one or more students say, “I wish I had known about GlobeSmart six months before taking your course. I would have made fewer mistakes and would have made less of a fool of myself (or worse).”
Dr. Garcia introduces GlobeSmart early in the semester by using a video featuring past students discussing how GlobeSmart has continued to be a useful resource to them out of class. Recently, an undergraduate student from America that spent a year abroad studying in Hong Kong shared: “I had lunch with conference attendees from Indonesia, and I was able to communicate and connect more effectively with them after consulting GlobeSmart on my I-Phone.”
Later in the video, an MBA student working with a large international firm described how he now begins meetings with diverse teams with a discussion of how differences in cultural orientations among team members often create challenges in communication, decision-making, and implementing change. He integrates the GlobeSmart cultural dimensions into these discussions and often draws upon the GlobeSmart materials he used in his courses with Dr. Garcia.
Advice to Other Faculty
Finding the elusive synergy between theory and practice is often a challenge, particularly when exploring the impact of cultural differences in the classroom. Faculty members are often skeptical of tools used in corporate settings that are not grounded in theory. Before students use GlobeSmart in his courses, Dr. Garcia has the students review the seminal cultural frameworks developed by researchers in the field (Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck, Hofstede, Schwartz, Trompenaars, and The GLOBE Study). After students review these frameworks, they quickly see that the practical and user-friendly five cultural dimensions in GlobeSmart are soundly rooted in theory.
Dr. Garcia believes that students who have used GlobeSmart in their coursework and their business careers are the most effective advocates for GlobeSmart among skeptical faculty and other academic decision-makers.
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About the Author
Daniel Basil Kerr is an intercultural solutions consultant and partners with organizations and universities to develop cultural competence and inclusive work and study environments. He previously served as Director of Development at Deloitte where he was responsible for their Global New Partner Seminar and other global partner development programs. He currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Business at Stony Brook University, St. Joseph’s College, and Suffolk County Community College. Dan is a CPA (New York) and holds a Master’s Degree in Accounting from the CW Post School of Accountancy, as well as a Ph.D. in Business Education/Cultural Studies from New York University. He is also a published poet and a Lay Minister in the Episcopal Church.
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Roberto Garcia is the Young-Jin Kim Clinical Professor of International Business in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. He also serves as Faculty Director for the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER). He currently teaches various International Business courses at the Undergraduate, Kelley Direct-Online, and Executive Education programs. Garcia holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in International Business with a functional area minor in Organizational Behavior and an MBA from the University of Toledo, Ohio (International Business). He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Psychology.
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Before going on to pursue a Ph.D., Dr. Garcia gained significant full-time management experience. Garcia has worked as a consultant or has delivered executive education sessions for a number of well-known organizations including, GM, Ford, Chrysler, ALCOA, Philips, AT&T, Wendy’s International, Edwards Brothers Printing, Kimball International, U.S. Department of Justice, Manitowoc, Cummins Inc., Eli Lilly, etc.
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