With 11 years in the army and tours in both Korea and Iraq, Matthew Bennett has spent plenty of time overseas. But it was his recent ten-day Global Business Experience with Cornerstone University’s Adult MBA program that gave the recent graduate his greatest insight into his own abilities to effectively navigate across cultures.
“The military certainly gave me a tremendous opportunity to experience other parts of the world, but in light of the political situation in some of those locations, our opportunities to interact with locals were limited, and those interactions were not always positive,” said Bennett, a 38- year-old father of three. “Traveling as a civilian business student and meeting with local business leaders in a constructive environment has opened my eyes to new areas for development of my own cultural intelligence.”
Bennett and former classmate Brandon DeMoss just returned from the Czech Republic, where they met with a variety of entrepreneurs and business leaders during the immersive ten-day trip. Bennett and DeMoss were so excited about their meetings that they have continued to share business insights with several entrepreneurs they got to know at a Prague incubator.
“I don’t think I realized how crucial globalization is to a country of only 10 million people,” said DeMoss, a 32-year old account manager who is just finishing his MBA at Cornerstone. “They seem to know a lot more about the U.S. than we know about them. If the U.S. is to continue as a global leader, we need to have a much better understanding of other cultures.”
Business leaders across the country have noted the importance of cultural sensitivity in the design of new business models. Yet, according to a 2011 study commissioned by Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), business schools had fallen behind in preparing participants for careers in an increasingly connected world.
“Doing business successfully in a global economy requires the self-awareness, cultural knowledge, and drive to function effectively in a variety of national, ethnic, and organizational cultures,” says Dr. Sandra Upton, dean of business programs in Cornerstone’s Professional & Graduate Studies Division, who is also a certified Cultural Intelligence Facilitator. “Helping our students develop cultural intelligence is now a fundamental component of our business curriculum.”
Students in Cornerstone’s MBA programs, as well as alumni and other students in the University’s Professional and Graduate Studies programs, have the option of going on one of five trips offered throughout the year to China, Czech Republic, India, Israel and South Africa. While not missionary trips, each trip requires the student to immerse themselves in another culture as a Christian business leader.
In order to fully assess their learning and skill development, each student must complete a Cultural Intelligence Assessment before and after they return from their trip. Developed by best-selling author David Livermore and the Cultural Intelligence Center based in East Lansing, the evidence-based assessment focuses specifically upon the skills and competencies needed to succeed in both international and multicultural domestic environments.
“Before the trip my CQ assessment suggested that while I was relatively self-aware and self-confident, I wasn’t particularly interested in adapting my perspective to address a different culture,” said Bennett. “My post-trip assessment indicated that I was a lot more open-minded and willing to accept that there might be a number of ways to effectively achieve the same goal.”
Bennett, who just moved into a new position as an e-commerce operations manager, sees a willingness to adapt to and embrace cultural differences as critical to his future success. And in addition to learning to embrace differences, Bennett and DeMoss both recognized that there are in fact, more similarities than we might otherwise think.
“My faith informs how I conduct myself in business every day,” says DeMoss. “But even in an atheist country like the Czech Republic, we saw many of the same values and principles in play.”
For more information about PGS programs, visit www.cornerstone.edu/pgs.