Global Mindset Defined

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  • GLOBALMINDSETDEFINEDExpat Success Strategy

    GLOBALMINDSETDEFINEDExpat Success Strategy

  • 2

    Research from the Worldwide ERC Foundation

    for Workforce Mobilityand Thunderbird School of

    Global Management

    Research from the Worldwide ERC Foundation

    for Workforce Mobilityand Thunderbird School of

    Global Management

  • 3

    Global reporter and author John Pomfret onceobserved that the difference in an overseasassignment [is that] there is an emphasis on thefacts, but theres also a much greater emphasis on interpretation.

    It takes a special blend of characteristicsa special kind of

    interpreter, if you willto add up to an outstanding expat

    who can be productive and accepted in an unfamiliar setting.

    This combination of characteristicsthe global mindsetis

    more crucial than ever, and can provide insight to companies

    that wish to hone their selection and assessment processes.

    In early 2005, a group of professors at Thunderbird School of

    Global Management (which consistently has been ranked

    number one in the United States and the world for its expertise

    in international business) embarked on a project: a rigorous and

    scientific study of the drivers of expat success. There were many

    aspects to this issuefor example, the role of the employer or

    the role of the familyhowever,

    B Y M A N S O U R J A V I D A NC O N T R I B U T I N G W R I T E R S : M A R Y T E A G A R D E N ,

    F E M I B A B R I N D E , K A R E N W A L C H , N A N D A N I LY N T O N , C H R I S T I N E P E A R S O N ,

    D A V I D B O W E N , A N D A N G E L C A B R E R A

    Global Mindset DefinedExpat Success Strategy

    Based on research conducted by theWorldwide ERCFoundation forWorkforce Mobility andThunderbird School ofGlobal Management,Javidan offers a comprehensive analysis of the global mindset as an expatriate successstrategy.

  • we quickly recognized the importance of focusing exclusivelyon the individual expat and the attributes that led to an individual either underperformingor succeeding.

    In designing our researchprogram, our research team firstreviewed all the literature on thetopic to develop a basic founda-tion, and then interviewed almost50 Thunderbird professors fromdifferent disciplines to understandtheir views on this subject.Hundreds of hours of individualand focus group interviews gavethe project further shape, and ledto our next step: interviews withmore than 200 Thunderbirdalumni in international positionsin the United States, Asia, andEurope. These individuals, whohave significant experience andresponsibility in various globalcorporations, also are nationalsfrom many countries of the world.Their perspectives on theelements of a global mindset gaveus additional insight for our study.

    The next phase of our researchinvolved organizing our findingsinto a framework to define andexplain the drivers of expatsuccess. An invitation-onlyglobal mindset conference at Thunderbird allowed us tobring together nearly four dozenof the most distinguished scholarsin global business from all overthe world. At this conference, we revealed our findings to ourguests. We also recorded theoutcome of discussions thatfocused on factors leading tosuccess in global assignments; an exercise that was integral to the development of our under-standing of the unique actionsand thought processes of -successful expats.

    In early 2006, we joined forces with the Worldwide ERC

    Foundation for WorkforceMobility to expand our globalmindset project to the workforcemobility industry. The partnershipforged between Thunderbird andthe Worldwide ERC Foundationleveraged both organizationsstrengths and focus. Thunder-birds work to develop globalbusiness leaders in the educationalarena dovetails with the workforcemobility industrys need toeducate and network globalhuman capital professionals. Andthe Foundations ability toconnect us with senior interna-tional executives worldwide forin-depth interviews in such majorcities as Hong Kong, China;Bangalore, India; Brussels,Belgium; and San Francisco, CA,broadened our research andextended our reach to individualswho actually manage internationalassignments. In some cases, theseinterviewees also participated in

    the selection of candidates foroverseas assignments.

    International Assignments:Competition and StrategyInternational assignments arehitting the mainstream as an inte-gral part of a companys businessstrategy, and continue to repre-sent a significant investment, aswell. To make matters morecomplex, the assignment thatbrings the employee to work inanother culture and country oftenbrings family members, too sowhen an assignment is unsuccess-ful, the scale of the defaultedassignment is much deeper andmore costly than with a home-country assignment.

    Selecting the right individuals forinternational assignments, thosewith a higher-than-average likeli-hood of outstanding performance,


    The partnershipforged between

    Thunderbird andthe Worldwide

    ERC Foundationleveraged both

    organizationsstrengths and focus.

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    will provide a competitive advan-tage for the company that buildsthe competency to identifysuccess potential in their newhires and/or current employees.With an already evident shortageof skilled labor, the competitionfor talent will grow even tighter incoming years.

    Indeed, recent Worldwide ERC

    benchmarking reports citeexpected increases in nearly alltypes of international assign-ments. And most companiesanticipate some difficulty in find-ing the talent to fill those assign-ments. In addition, the increasingdifficulty in recruiting globaltalent in labor-depleted regionsdrives an increasing need forworkers to be mobile.

    Worldwide ERC statistics revealthat approximately 80 percent ofcompanies said the available posi-tions in their organizationsrequire new hires to be moremobile now than three years ago.And with short-term internationalassignments on the rise in anumber of companies and loca-tions, the time frame for assimilat-ing into a new culture is tighterand the demand for productivityin the host country more chal-lenging.

    The success of every expat is due,to a large extent, to the ability toinfluence individuals, groups, andorganizations with a differentcultural perspective in the hostcountry to achieve the companysgoals. Whether communicatingwith his or her employees,colleagues, supply chain partners,or customers; or different types oforganizations in the host country,such as government agencies,regulators, or client organizations;the successful expat has a primaryresponsibility: to influence key

    stakeholders in the host countryto help achieve company goals.

    Understanding Global MindsetIf we recognize that a globalmindset is a mix of individualattributes that enable an expat tosuccessfully influence those whoare different from him/her, it isclear that without it, it is most

    difficult, if not impossible, for anexpat to succeed in the interna-tional assignment. Experts havedescribed global mindset with arange of language. One globalmobility expert said it means theability to avoid the simplicity ofassuming all cultures are thesame, and at the same time, notbeing paralyzed by the complexityof the differences. Anothernoted that someone with aglobal mindset enters a new anddifferent situation, with manymore questions rather thananswers, assumptions, andpresumptions. Still another saidthat rather than being frustratedand intimidated by the differ-

    ences, an expat with a globalmindset ends up enjoying themand seeking them out because[they] find them fascinating.

    Thunderbird professors,Thunderbird alumni, distin-guished scholars, and the seniorglobal executives we interviewedthrough our relationship with theWorldwide ERC Foundation all

    pointed out some commonalities,and as we distilled their views, weconcluded that global mindsetconsists of three major compo-nents (Figure 1): intellectual capi-tal, psychological capital, andsocial capital.

    Intellectual CapitalIntellectual capital refers toknowledge, skills, understanding,and cognitive complexity. Fromour interviews, we know thatthere is an important body ofknowledgethe employeessubject matter expertise thatexpats must have to be successfulin their tasks. We also learned thatsuccessful expats think differently

  • than their less successful counter-partsthey have a bigger capacityto take differing viewpoints intoconsideration to understand andaddress complex issues.

    In our Worldwide ERC Found-ation interview group, we askedsenior executives to rate theimportance of a range of individ-ual attributes that were identifiedduring our earlier interviews.Table 1 shows their ratings on aseven-point scale for the itemsrelated to intellectual capital (Arating of 7 was ExtremelyImportant.).

    It is clear that successful expatshave a high stock of intellectualcapital; with a strong set of cogni-tive skills and a solid base ofknowledge. Intellectual capitaltranslates into understanding theglobal business and industry;knowing how competition worksin the global industry and what itmeans to the expats company. Asone executive put it: Expats arechosen because they are supposedto bring knowledge and experi-ence to the company that theydont have locally that providesa level of respect.

    Intellectual capital also involvesthe ability to build globalnetworks, and being cognizant ofthe role that interdependenciesplay in global success. Todaysglobal corporations are highlyintegrated global networks ofsupply chain partners who are

    working together to satisfy theneeds of their global customers.Expats must understand theimportance of such networks andhow they work; what actions andprocesses create success or lead tomalfunctions