Friday, October 25, 2013


rutgers business school blog
Professor Ramon (Ray) Henson is an organization and management consultant with over 25 years of global experience working in senior positions with various Fortune 500 companies, including Merck & Co., Avon Products, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup.  He currently heads Henson Consulting International, is a Consulting Partner with Organisation Solutions (Singapore), and is a member of the consulting team of the Center for Organizational Design (United States).  

 At Rutgers Business School, Professor Henson teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in Organizational Behavior, Human Resource Management, Executive Leadership, Cross-Cultural Management, Team Development, International Business, Global Management Strategy, and Strategic Management.  He is also on the faculty of the RBS International Executive MBA Program, where he travels overseas (China, Singapore) to teach. 

Not only is Professor Henson a dedicated teacher, but he is also an avid blogger. His blog was recently ranked by as one of the top 50 business blogs by business professors.

Advice on Developing a Global Mindset

So you have heard that many multinational firms today want their new hires and managers to have a global mindset.  Yes, you say to yourself, that makes sense, since many firms today do business around the world, sell products globally, and have employees from different regions. 

But you are not sure what having a global mindset means.  You have a passport, and you have traveled overseas.  Perhaps you are a second-generation American, whose parents immigrated to the United States.  Or perhaps you came from overseas to study at RBS.  You have taken courses in international business and global strategy, and you have friends from different parts of the world.  You are familiar with the business issues that multinationals face when they do business in different countries, and you are aware of some of the cross-cultural challenges that these businesses face when they try to implement their policies and practices in different countries.  Does that mean that you have a global mindset?

There are two words that I have converted to acronyms that I’d like you to remember.  The first is FACE.  Global mindset is a mental attitude, an inclination.  It is not a behavior, but it should predict behavior.  In my own experience and interviews with executives and students, I would say there are four components to global mindset you can easily remember with the acronym FACE:  Flexibility, Acceptance/Openness, Curiosity, and Cross-Cultural Empathy.  So having a global mindset means that when you interact or work with people from different cultures, you need to: be flexible; learn to accept different points of view and to be open about them; be curious about other cultures; and develop empathy by trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

If these are the four orientations to having a global mindset, what can you do practically to develop it?  The second word I’d like you to remember is the acronym ROPE, which stands for Reading, Observing, Practicing, and Experiencing. 

First, reading.  Yes, you can read randomly and surf the internet to learn about other cultures and global issues, but it’s better to be focused.  Pick a country or two you are interested in (for example, countries of the colleagues or customers you are interacting with), and spend at least 15 minutes daily learning more about that country – its politics, its business environment, its history, its people, what consumers in that country are like, and what it’s like to do business in that country. 

Second, observe.  No, you don’t have to be a voyeur or an eavesdropper.  But when you are watching a foreign movie, or are observing people from other cultures talk or interact, step back and pay attention especially to the non-verbals – their body language, their use of personal space, the tone and manner of speech.  Another suggestion is to observe the interactions during meetings with global teams or with people from different cultures.  Find someone to help you “de-brief” these meetings, especially around the group dynamics and interactions, to get a better understanding of how people communicate cross-culturally.

Third, practice.  Here’s a suggestion.  When you enter a classroom for a new course, do you tend to look for a familiar face and then instantly sit down beside that person?  Next time, look for a person you don’t know, even someone who you think may be from another culture, and introduce yourself.  After establishing rapport and gauging the person’s comfort level, ask questions about his or her country in a general way (e.g., “What’s the weather like this time of year?”).  More often than not, that person will appreciate your interest and you will be able to make a connection and build a relationship.

Fourth, experience.  Break up your routine and get out of your comfort zone once in a while.  There are a lot of different ways you can do this.  For example, when at a restaurant, order a dish that you have never had before.  Or better still, go to places that offer a different type of food than what you are used to.  Once in a while, take a different route in your commute.  Once a week, leave your mobile phone at home.  The point of these small changes to your habits will be to help you expand the range of your comfort zone so you can become more adept at “going with the flow” in the future.

The bottom line - global mindset is about having an attitude of eagerness, curiosity, learning and openness about different cultures and the people from those cultures.  Of course it helps if you are well traveled.  But I know people who travel to different countries and only stay at American hotels, eat only American food, and hang out only with other Americans (you can replace “American” with whatever your nationality or cultural identity might be).

As it turns out, your RBS colleagues have an intuitive idea of global mindset, as you probably do also.  From my classes, here are some of their replies to the question of what global mindset means to them:
 “Global mindset means that you are aware of your environment, of others and the impact of ideas and events in your business, strategy or position.”

“Taking a more macro look at things … understanding that things won’t work the same all over the world, and taking that into account.”

“Having an understanding that countries have different cultures, and going into each country, one must always be aware and sensitive to that country’s cultural ways.”

 “Someone who understands or has an open mind to understand different cultures and how these affect the outcomes of decisions.”

“Putting yourself in the other culture’s shoes.”

“Listening and resisting reflexive judgments.”

“Your way is not always the right way.”

“Understanding that different countries/cultures have different ways of doing things.  They value certain things differently.  A global mindset has to take all of that into consideration and be open-minded and willing to compromise.” 

For further reading, here are five highly recommended books:
Charan, R.  (2013)  Global Tilt.  Crown Business.  
Gundling, E.  (2003)  Working GlobeSmart.  Nicholas Brearley Publishing.
Nisbett, R.  (2004)  The Geography of Thought.  The Free Press.
Reid, T. R.  (2000)  Confucius Lives Next Door.  Vintage.
Morrison, T. and Conaway, W.  (2006)  Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands.  Adams Media.

For more wisdom on Global Management, visit Professor Henson’s blog: 


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