The world is getting more similar it seems. Starbucks and McDonald's are in every corner of the globe. It is easy to forget, with KFC in 125 countries, whether you are ordering food in Beijing, Bangalore, or Buenos Aires. But while people may enjoy the same fast food, that does not mean the same facilitation techniques, language, humor, and training styles work everywhere. As a designer or facilitator, it is important to have a global mindset.
The Thunderbird School of Global Management defines global mindset as, “A set of attributes that helps people work better with individuals and organizations unlike themselves. It is the ability to understand the similarities and differences among cultures and not be paralyzed by the differences. It is about being comfortable with being uncomfortable in different environments.”
A global mindset is more than knowing a list of protocols to follow and the taboos to sidestep for each country. Knowledge of different cultures is not sufficient information to create a positive learning environment. It is also necessary to be open to feedback when working internationally to notice the “awkwardness” of a situation and make adjustments.
David Livermore is an expert on the topic of global mindset, or cultural intelligence, as he refers to it. David is the president of the Cultural Intelligence Center, and he says cultural intelligence consists of four interdependent competencies:
Bahaa from Egypt taught a program in Pakistan; during the needs assessment conversation, he learned that English proficiency was adequate even though Pakistanis speak the Urdu language. On day two the second group of participants were quiet. Shortly into the presentation, Bahaa realized that the learners could not understand him. He called for a break and invited an attendee from day one, who spoke both languages, to be his translator and co-facilitator. Instantly, the engagement peaked. Bahaa had selected the correct new actions to improve the effectiveness of his training.
Dan, a trainer from Canada, had a similar situation but chose different actions. He went to China, and during the needs assessment, he learned that participants were fluent in English. During class, Dan learned otherwise. He called for a break and quickly simplified language on slides, thought of analogies for more complex concepts, slowed down his speech, and incorporated table group discussions.
Both facilitators utilized a global mindset. They had the drive and desire to work cross-culturally, and they gained knowledge through completing a thorough needs analysis. They designed a strategic training plan. However, once on the ground, their plan met with reality. They were able to read their audience’s subtle uncomfortable reactions and flex their behaviors to adjust content and body language to achieve learning transfer.
What would you have done? Do you have a global mindset? Here are some thought-provoking questions. There are no right or wrong answers. The four global mindset competencies mentioned earlier serve as a foundation to create introspection about your global mindset capabilities.
Drive: The interest, confidence, and perseverance to adapt to cross-cultural situations
Knowledge: Understanding culture and how it shapes behaviors
Strategy: Using self-awareness and knowledge to manage cross-cultural experiences
Action: Behaving appropriately in a culturally diverse situation
The key to further developing our global mindset is to seek opportunities to travel or to collaborate with a diverse team at home or online. We need to be intentional with these experiences to anticipate and strategize for the unexpected, then reflect-in-action to choose appropriate behaviors.