Cultivating Cultural Self-Awareness: Transforming IB Students Into Effective IB Leaders

Cultivating Cultural Self-Awareness: Transforming IB Students Into Effective IB Leaders

Juan-Maria Gallego (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0214-3.ch004


This chapter analyzes the importance of using appropriate pedagogic and practical tools to develop cultural self-awareness in international business (IB) students in a classroom setting, establishing the foundations for future international business executives. Based on recent research, the author posits that IB students need to develop three basic knowledge bases: (1) their cultural intelligence level, (2) their potential implicit biases, and (3) the use of critical thinking to avoid certain psychological traps or hijackers. Using cultural self-assessments, developing the understanding of psychological factors affecting decision-making processes, and incorporating the use of critical thinking should reduce the negative role of unconscious biases during cross-cultural interactions. The author posits about the effectiveness of cultural profiling tools in predicting and identifying potential cultural pitfalls and challenges. Finally, the author recommends incorporating the practical use of cultural profiling tools in simulation or case studies.
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A new level of complexity dominates today´s global economy (Mendenhall et al., 2012; Stacks, Booker, von Der Linden, & Strohmayr, 2014). The challenges of globalization are embedded in the multiculturalism of the new business environment, affecting cultural, technological, political, and social factors. Tapping into the competitive advantages of certain markets (low-labor costs, large English-speaking populations, large pool of engineers or STEM-based professionals…), while navigating the political and social implications of globalization, produced multicultural workforces that are becoming the norm in today´s world economy. Past studies support the benefits of multiculturalism, such as increase levels of creativity, higher corporate profitability, and improved customer satisfaction (Hunt, Layton, & Prince, 2015). Still, multiculturalism presents certain challenges to organizations that, when mismanaged, could result in conflicts and, ultimately, loss of opportunities and revenues for corporations. Preparing future international business (IB) professionals to hit the ground running should be a priority for any business-focused, higher learning institution.

Developing an effective leadership that has the ability to navigate and prosper within these global movements presents itself as a challenging task. Regardless of the nationality or country of origin of the young IB executive, he or she will face a series of challenges anchored in the lack of a culture-specific knowledge and, to a large degree, exacerbated by a poorly developed metacognition. Thomas (2006) defined metacognition as the “understanding of one´s own cognitive behavior in the planning and monitoring of performance and in the use of cognitive strategies” (p. 86). Metacognition is identified as one of the dimensions of Cultural Intelligence (CQ), “the ability to interact effectively with people who are culturally different” (Thomas, 2006, p. 80).

This chapter will posit that in order to develop effective cross-cultural future leaders, executives, and employees, classroom activities and lectures should aim at developing and growing the IB student´s own cultural intelligence. Many of the challenges faced by cross-cultural leaders are born from individual psychological factors, such as cognitive dissonance, rationalization, and motivated reasoning. Biases are generally born from social or psychological reasons, including cultural and organizational group behaviors. Hence, learning about one´s implicit biases should be part of one´s metacognition development early on in the IB student developmental phase. Learning about culturally specific elements should be another aspect of business leadership development. When dealing with individuals from different national cultures, cultural profiling tools, such as the Culture Intelligence Scale (CQS), the Meyer´s Culture Map, Kazai Group´s Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES), or Itim International’s Culture Compass™ Survey help predict potential challenges and opportunities related to one´s cultural awareness level, self-efficacy, and culture-specific knowledge. The author examines existing research on the topics of cultural intelligence, implicit bias, and cross-cultural leadership development, and proposes an effective development plan for future cross-cultural leaders.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Biases: Learned traits or prejudices against one thing, person, or group that may not be based on rational or logical reasons.

Cultural Intelligence: A person´s capability to function and manage him- or herself successfully in culturally diverse settings.

Metacognitive Dimension: An individual´s level of conscious cultural awareness and ability to recognize cultural gaps in knowledge during interactions.

Motivational Dimension: The self-efficacy of an individual or the personal belief of an individual about his or her abilities to successfully interact with other cultures.

Behavior: The result of a gap between one´s actual state and a desired state.

Cognitive Dimension: The culture-specific and culture-general knowledge, the accumulation of facts about norms, mores, practices, and customs that facilitates the understanding of a distinct cultural situation.

Behavioral Dimension: The ability of cultural adaptation of an individual.

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