Women outscore men in their passion for diversity. But men surpass women in most other categories of global mindset, researchers at Thunderbird School of Global Management said Aug. 8 in Chicago at the world’s largest annual gathering of management scholars.
Other factors besides gender that help predict a person’s global mindset include time spent abroad, foreign language proficiency, age, company size and job level. But Thunderbird Professor Mansour Javidan, Ph.D., said the way these factors correlate to global mindset is sometimes surprising, perplexing and counter-intuitive.
“Initially I had my intuition, and I had some ideas about factors that would influence global mindset,” Javidan said. “I was very proud of my ideas, but many of them have been proven wrong.”
Javidan, Thunderbird’s Dean of Research and Garvin Distinguished Professor, shared the latest findings from Thunderbird’s Global Mindset Leadership Institute at the 69th annual meeting of the Academy of Management, an association of more than 19,000 scholars and business leaders from 108 nations. He spoke at the conference with Thunderbird professors Mary Teagarden, Ph.D., and David Bowen, Ph.D., and 2004 Thunderbird graduate Rachel Clapp-Smith about the Global Mindset Inventory, a scientific self-assessment developed at Thunderbird to measure global business savvy.
Overall, the person most likely to score well on the Global Mindset Inventory would be a senior-level male manager under age 40 or older than 65 working at a small company who has lived in multiple countries for extended periods of time and speaks multiple languages with a high degree of proficiency.
Speaking multiple languages with minimal proficiency doesn’t help. Neither does an extra decade of work experience after turning 40, or an extra 18 months abroad after living in the same country for six months. Just don’t ask the Thunderbird researchers to explain why — at least not yet.
“At this point we have more questions than answers,” said Javidan, leader of the global mindset project that Thunderbird launched in 2005 to identify and explore the key attributes of successful global business leaders.
So far, more than 6,500 people from about 200 organizations have completed the Global Mindset Inventory, an online survey of 91 questions that takes about 10 minutes to finish. The following patterns have emerged:
Time spent abroad — Global mindset scores tend to go up according to the number of countries a person has visited for one to six months. But living in the same country for longer periods of time doesn’t help global mindset until the visit extends beyond two years.
“We get some level of global mindset from brief stints in more countries, but to start to explain more significance, we really need to be there for a longer period of time,” Clapp-Smith told the audience of about 60 scholars and business professionals. “We probably could get into a discussion of what we soak up in that period of two years or more.”
Foreign language proficiency — Global mindset scores tend to go up according to the number of languages a person speaks, as long as that person is “very skilled,” “moderately skilled” or “somewhat skilled” in each language. Being minimally skilled in a foreign language doesn’t help predict global mindset, no matter how many languages a person lists.
Age — People in the middle-aged groups from 40 to 65 produce the lowest scores on the Global Mindset Inventory, while people younger than 40 or older than 65 score significantly higher in every category. “I am very confused by this one,” Javidan said. “It is very hard for me to explain.”
Company size — People who work at companies with fewer than 100 employees produce the highest scores in psychological capital, a key component of global mindset that refers to passion for diversity, quest for adventure and self-assurance.
“What is fascinating is that those managers who work for smaller companies have significantly higher levels of psychological capital,” Javidan said. “What we found specifically in very large companies was that passion for diversity goes down big time.”
Job level — Perhaps easier to explain is the correlation Thunderbird has found between job level and global mindset. Overall, global mindset tends to increase as a person moves up the ladder in any organization.
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Thunderbird has created a psychometric tool that is changing how global businesses compete. Learn more about the Global Mindset Leadership Institute or contact the project leader, Thunderbird Dean of Research Mansour Javidan, Ph.D., at email@example.com.