Thunderbird Professor Mansour Javidan, Ph.D., delivered this welcome address Aug. 11, 2010, for new students in the Global MBA for Latin American Managers program, a dual degree program at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona, and Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico.
By Mansour Javidan, Thunderbird Professor
Welcome home. We are delighted to be with you for the journey you are starting. During the next 22 months, you will participate in more than just an academic program offered by these two great institutions. You are coming home.
That is one of the things special about this place: This is your home.
The secret to Thunderbird’s success is that our students are special. When other business schools talk like this, they usually refer to their students’ impressive test scores, grade point averages and work experience.
Thunderbird students have similar high credentials. But this is not what makes you special. When I call you special, I mean something different.
Typical MBA students at typical business schools tackle problems in the typical way. They identify and analyze situations through the lens of a single culture.
Thunderbird students are different. When we give you a problem, you look at it from multiple perspectives. You enjoy other cultures and feel most comfortable surrounded by new people, new ideas and new customs.
This is not normal. Most people prefer to work and associate with others like themselves. They feel most comfortable surrounded by others who speak the same language, share the same values and eat the same foods.
Normal people would view an expatriate assignment to a faraway place as punishment — or something that must be endured on the way up the corporate ladder in a multinational organization. Thunderbird students cheer and pack their bags.
You have passion for diversity, quest for adventure and self-assurance in cross-cultural environments. These traits baffle normal people, who wonder what is wrong with you.
Friends, co-workers and even spouses sometimes grow impatient with you. They wonder why you cannot just settle down like normal people in one culture and one place.
Age of discovery
They do not understand the Thunderbird way of looking at things. They do not understand that wherever you are, that is your home.
Perhaps you were born 500 years too late. If you had lived in the Age of Discovery, you would have sailed the world looking for adventure in uncharted lands. The uncertainty would have made you even more excited.
People standing on the shore would have looked at you and wondered what was wrong with you. But do not worry. Even though your timing is off by 500 years, you are in the right place now.
You are on a new ship called Thunderbird. The classes we offer and the experiences you will gain will put you on a course of discovery that will lead to new ideas, new people and new cultures.
This is the only way to hold your attention. As global explorers, you get bored with sameness and do not stay long when your learning curve grows flat. Managers find this out when they put you in a cubicle and deprive you of cross-cultural adventures.
Another thing special about you is your ability to network with everyone you meet. I call you social capitalists.
You know how to build relationships of trust, which is the most important element of business. You are especially good at this when it comes to building trust with people different from you.
You will thrive at Thunderbird, which attracts students from all over the world. I recently interviewed alumni about their most memorable experiences at Thunderbird. Without exception, they said the best part of their campus experience was the opportunity to meet classmates from different religions, nationalities and ethnicities.
Many alumni keep these connections strong long after graduation. They meet each other on First Tuesdays, attend global reunions and seek each other out when they travel. This is why the Economist recently ranked Thunderbird No. 1 in the world for “potential to network.”
It’s all about relationships. That is what makes Thunderbirds special. You get excited about meeting people different from you. Normal people struggle with this, but not you.
If I were a medical doctor, my diagnosis of this group would be clear. You all have DB, or “Diversity Bug.”
We have tried to figure out where this bug comes from. But we have heard so many different stories that it is difficult to narrow it down. All we know is that once you have this bug, you cannot get rid of it.
You just have to nurture it. That is what gives you excitement, satisfaction and happiness. That also is what makes you misunderstood.
You are the misfits. As you grow up in society, you quickly discover that you have different interests from normal people. People wonder what is wrong with you, and you sometimes feel like you have to justify yourself.
At Thunderbird no one tries to cure the diversity bug. You do not have to justify yourself here. Thunderbird is the United Home of the Misfits, and you belong. So welcome home.
Mansour Javidan, Ph.D., is Dean of Research and Garvin Distinguished Professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management. He is director of Thunderbird’s Global Mindset Leadership Institute and president and chairman of the world-renowned research project on executive performance and leadership, titled GLOBE (Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness).
Students who come to Thunderbird School of Global Management tend to have one thing in common. They are misfits. That’s the best description Thunderbird Professor Mansour Javidan, Ph.D., can find. Normal people prefer to live and work in familiar environments surrounded by others who speak the same language, share the same values and eat the same foods. Thunderbird students are different. They prefer cross-cultural adventures in unfamiliar locations. When they come to Thunderbird, they finally find a place where they belong. “You are coming home,” Javidan tells incoming students Aug. 11, 2010, during the orientation for Thunderbird’s Global MBA for Latin American Managers program. “This is your home. We are delighted to be with you for the journey you are starting.” Audio: Thunderbird Misfits (28:27)