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How MBAs can develop cross-cultural skills

When sharing a classroom, talking to an overseas student is inevitable.

There are many advantages to internationally diverse classes of students at a business school. The most prominent one, however, is creative problem solving. According to Financial Times, a multinational class is also one of the most risk-bound because of cultural clashes. With globalization getting ever more significant and boundaries disappearing, graduates with cross-culture experience continue to be the most valued by employers.

What Do Cross-Cultural Skills Include?

1. Be aware

Learn a lot about other countries and cultures, but don’t forget your own country’s traditions to be able to compare them.

2. Be empathic

If you intend to work with multinational teams, the crucial thing is to find common ground with all members. You will have to go above and beyond what every individual member would prefer. The main thing here is to talk and express your opinions and preferences, as people tend to understand others based on their own backgrounds.

3. Be open-minded

You absolutely have to broaden your horizons for an international team to succeed. It would be wise to know your own limits. Still, be careful with using traditional methods of becoming more open-minded. For instance, typically MBAs go to intensive business trips to culturally different countries, like China. It certainly raises your culture awareness, but it also may create a false belief that now you know everything there is to learn about Chinese culture and traditions. You need more time, immersion and diligence to get to know a foreign culture.

How Do Business Schools Achieve True Cultural Diversity?

1. By creating small groups with high levels of diversity

As every MBA program naturally attracts students from different countries and backgrounds (some business schools, especially European ones, can boast an 80 to 90% level of foreign students), it’s quite easy to make the mistake of believing that students will be able to improve their cultural awareness just by being in the same room with foreign classmates.

However, there’s more to it: if you just share a bench with someone from overseas, it won’t help much. You have to engage others in constant conversation and try to work with foreigners as much as possible.

To make this happen, universities have to encourage students to communicate with each other. One of the best ways to do it is to create small groups with a lot of diversity and then make them discuss questions and do activities together. Thus, students can get rid of their biases and stereotypes about other cultures.

2. By making all subjects cross-cultural

It’s not enough just to have several lectures focused on culture awareness and leave other subjects unchanged. Every part of the business school curriculum should reflect the needed cross-cultural mindset. With such changes, trips to other countries make much more sense, as they are just putting into practice everything learned in class.

3. By encouraging reflection in students

Business schools should give students time and opportunity to reflect on their multicultural environment. Special assignments could help – like writing essays about cultural diversity and what it means in the modern world, or comparing their own background with those of the international students. Let students make their own conclusions about what they encounter at schools and how they plan to use this beneficial experience in their professional life.

Learn more about the best multicultural business schools on MBA25 event in Astana!

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