Setting the Tone

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

- Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Developing Global Expertise : 3 Exploring A Framework

I am working towards a framework for developing global expertise. In my mind, it starts with a disjuncture, a disconnect, when things don't turn out the way it should. This should indeed be easy, it happens all too often when one travels to another country or starts working with someone from a different culture. Or, so we think. In reality, though, it does not happen that way at all. Even when we travel, or start working with someone from a different culture, we still remain within our own context: The disjuncture does not happen, we reject anything odd as an anomaly, an exception. So, my starting point is how one could establish the starting point - the disjuncture!

Also, most of this may happen in a classroom or workplace setting, rather than travel (which I am now getting to think about - whether I start working on a travel learning model) and hence, I have to find a way to simulate 'disjuncture'. I don't think this is a particular challenge though, because disjuncture often have to be simulated anyway. Most people don't automatically draw such insights from experience - I have seen people spending a lifetime in different cultural setting and yet never experiencing one - and such insights need to be given. I am compiling stories of such disjuncture. There is a good movie about an American expat relocating to India which I usually show to my students, which has a happy ending and all (complete with falling in love with an Indian girl - you can see the movie here): There are other case examples from business research underling such disjuncture as well.


However, such disjuncture quite narrowly focuses on 'culture' - the way people are - and encourage superficial adjustments, whereas I wish to address the issue of behaviour at a deeper level. Expertise is not about wearing a smile and nodding your head correctly: It is about addressing professional challenges and maintaining ethical behaviour in the changed context. Arriving at this not only means dealing with the disjuncture as told - bow when handing over business card to the Japanese business partner - but reconciling it with one's own professional behaviour and ethical standards at the same time. My quest, therefore, is to create a framework that can address such issues.

I am drawn towards a framework suggested by Angel Cabrera and Gregory Unruh of Thunderbird, which defines global expertise as a combination of three interrelated competencies - Global Intellectual Capital, Global Psychological Capital and Global Social Capital. Global Intellectual Capital is knowing about the world, Global Psychological Capital is about knowing the ways of the world and Global Social Capital is about knowing people and having friends globally. This is a far more comprehensive set of competences than the superficial 'cultural' understanding - and also more demanding. However, for me, 'expertise' is more than about the length of your handshake anyway.

So, how do I help my learners develop the three 'capitals' as above? Indeed, the task is complex because such understanding is usually hindered by normative judgements about the 'right' way of doing things. This every person has, knowingly or unknowingly, and it is culturally embedded. We indeed use the words 'ethics' and 'integrity' quite easily and rather uncritically, but most people will struggle if asked to explain what they mean, particularly in the context of real work. The start point of developing these capitals is actually a way to understand precisely the culturally laden nature of our assumptions: This is not to say such assumptions are invalid, because that is the only way to arrive at such values and beliefs anyway: It is about understanding and accepting the nature of those assumptions - as opposed to them being the only true way possible - is what matters.

I am therefore designing an activity to start with, which allows people to examine their own assumptions, by first becoming aware of them. Once this is achieved, the three 'capitals' become easier to acquire. Indeed, this needs to be followed up by Intent, to understand why one must acquire the 'capitals'. This, then, will lead to a plan to acquire the 'capitals', understanding them, exploring the models and resolving the issues around own behaviour and comfort zones. Finally, this should lead to a cycle of application of the learned concepts, which should, in my scheme of things, lead to another cycle of disjuncture, intent, plan and experience, and so on and so forth.

My planned sequence of activities then is this:

1. The Disjuncture - An activity to explore own assumptions that underlie behaviour

2. The Intent - Understanding the challenges of global engagements

3. The Plan - Understanding the three 'capitals', planning to acquire the same by exploring various ways to do so

4. The Experience - Applying the learned behaviour in different aspects of global work, and through this, exploration of own assumptions, yet again.

I am currently putting this learning programme together for a course that I wrote for U-Aspire and want to implement shortly for a group of managers in the UK. But the idea will be to structure this broadly in cultural terms so that this could be easily done for other settings and cultures as well. Indeed, I shall believe that learning is not just about design, and more will be revealed as I start doing it. I know that the simple terms, such as 'knowing cultural assumptions', run deeper - this may need to be explored over and over again, in the context of not just 'national cultures' but the particular influences that particular learner may have had. And, accordingly, all plans are personal - and while I must design the learning, I must keep open the outcomes and be able to accept a variety of views, values and approaches. This is just the first step in this very interesting activity.

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