In early January, an email circulated around Tuck asking whether the MBA students were ready for a career that demanded working in cross-cultural teams. It asked whether the students felt sufficiently prepared to manage the complexity of cultural diversity in a global business environment.
The email invited students to a three-hour workshop on January 29 aimed at cultivating “intercultural readiness” sponsored by Tuck’s Center for International Business and the MBA Program Office. The program was led by Maarten Asser, Chief Executive for the U.S. Headquarters of Trompenaars Hampden-Turner, a global consulting firm that specializes in cross-cultural training for senior executives.
“All Tuck students have had cross-cultural interactions. However, most lack a framework for understanding these interactions and maximizing their effectiveness in cross-cultural situations,” said CIB Executive Director Lisa Miller. “We hosted this workshop not necessarily to provide all the answers, but to help students understand their own interaction styles and those of others, and to provide tips on adjusting their styles when necessary.”
Bijan Teja T’12, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, said, “The session taught me to question my own preconceptions about the way different cultures value flexibility versus consistency, individualism versus teamwork, and other dimensions. It also taught me about differences even within countries. For example, one student from Brazil spoke about the culture shock he experienced when he moved from one city in Brazil to another.”
The 20 participants completed an Intercultural Readiness Check survey and received individual feedback on how to improve and prepare for a career that will undoubtedly require practical tools for thriving in the global business environment. The IRC survey covered four areas:
- Intercultural Sensitivity: The degree to which a person takes an active interest in others, their cultural background, needs and perspectives.
- Building Commitment: The degree to which a person actively influences the social environment, concerned with integrating different people and personalities.
- Intercultural Communication: The degree to which a person actively monitors own communicative behaviors.
- Managing Uncertainty: The degree to which a person is able to manage the greater uncertainty of intercultural situations.
“I enjoyed the Intercultural Readiness workshop very much,” said Sarah Austrin-Willis T’11, from Washington, D.C. “I signed up because I see the challenges of intercultural communication within the diverse Tuck community and recognize that we will face similar challenges in our professional lives. I found the workshop helpful in getting us to discuss some of the cultural differences we encounter day to day, and to discover constructive, mutually-beneficial ways to approach them.”
Asser, the workshop leader, added: “Today’s business leaders need to be aware of their own cultural perceptions and perspectives and truly respect the values and insights of colleagues and business partners from different national, organizational, and functional cultures. Making sense of your own experiences, and anticipating potential business and personal development challenges, is key to being successful in your career. The session aimed to prepare the MBA students to deal with cultural differences in a systematic way and provided many specific business examples.”