The Global Minded MBA: Functioning Cross-Culturally. By Mark Ellis, Ph.D.

31 10 2013

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15 to 20 years ago, executives could get away with thinking, planning, and strategizing with a national mindset. This, however, is no longer an option if a company is to be successful in the global marketplace. Especially in light of the global economic challenges that has not only affected America, but the entire world. Moreover, with the flattening of organizations and the decentralization of companies, a global mindset is crucial for the MBA of the 21st century. Many MBA programs are now incorporating foreign language requirements, multinational and cross-cultural training courses into their MBA programs to better prepare graduates for the cross-cultural context where they will conduct business.

As global organizations are springing up all over the world, MBA students need to prepare themselves to think not only locally, but globally and cross culturally. To be able to conduct business in an effective manner requires a whole new level of skill and thinking than what was required just a short time ago.

As a result of the new demands in the business world today, business schools have had to take on a substantially different approach to an MBA education. For instance, in the 20th century, an MBA student could expect to take a class in marketing that dealt primarily with the “Four P’s” of the marketing mix. This marketing mix consists of product, price, place, and promotion. Because of the rapidly changing global marketplace, some marketing strategists have arguably suggested that the “Four P’s” are no longer sufficient and present a “Five P” marketing mix instead. This important addition changes the marketing mix to product, price, place, promotion, and very importantly — People. The value your people bring to your business by providing service to your customers and clients is a vitally important component of the marketing mix.

The “Fifth P” of the marketing mix has given companies strong incentive to recruit MBAs that have a clear understanding of the value and importance of the people factor. From a marketing and economic standpoint, meeting the needs and wants of the target market is one thing. Meeting the needs, wants, and demands of the diverse global culture is something else entirely. The Fifth P plays an increasingly important role in the success of any global organization. You cannot have a strong corporate image without the people; good people to listen to your customers, and good people to communicate those comments, concerns, and needs to your entire organization.

No longer can companies be concerned with the bottom line or task oriented objectives alone when reaching out to the international market. Many cultures and people groups do not share the same values as Americans. As a result, companies need to aggressively change the way they think and conduct business in order to be able to facilitate the demands of international and cross-cultural clientele.

As a result of these current and important rapid changes, global organizations are now looking for MBAs who are able to think globally, function cross culturally, and conduct business internationally in ways that will not only improve the bottom line for the organization, but gain customers and customer loyalty that is much more diverse than the American marketplace.

The following is an Interview with Harvard Business School’s David Garvin. The interview discusses critical issues regarding the rethinking of the MBA in order to meet the challenges of today’s global economic landscape.

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