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New Study Reveals International Travelers Receive More Job Offers

davidlivermore | April 14th, 2014 1 Comment

Augustine of Hippo said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Now, a new study led by INSEAD professor William W. Maddux reveals that those who travel receive more job opportunities than those who don’t.

Maddux et. al conducted a longitudinal study and discovered that an MBA student’s intercultural experiences predicted the number of job offers received, even when controlling for variables like demographics, personality etc. Students who adapted to and learned about new cultures engaged in job interviews more creatively and demonstrated more openness and initiative. They were seen as being able to bring seemingly unrelated ideas together into meaningful wholes. As a result, these students were able to successfully navigate the interview process and received more job offers.[1]

Some of the most promising correlations found between international travel and job prospects are:

1. Stronger Sense of Self
Travel provides the opportunity to become aware of your own values and priorities. You’re forced to differentiate between your culture of origin, the cultures you encounter, and your self-identity. Organizations want to hire professionals who are self-aware.

2. Increased Trust
Another study found that how much you trust a stranger is positively correlated to the number of places you’ve traveled. The job candidates who traveled most broadly were most likely to trust someone they didn’t know.[2] Companies want team members who can develop trusting relationships across virtual and international borders.

3. Creativity and Problem-Solving
Intercultural experiences provide a laboratory for improved creativity and problem solving. In a new environment, everyday tasks have to be done differently and there’s an opportunity to observe people using alternative approaches from what’s familiar.[3] A proven ability to innovate sets you apart from other job candidates.

But…not all travel experiences are equal!
Travel does not by itself ensure improved cultural intelligence (CQ) or increased job offers. Several important variables make the difference:

The nature of the experience
If business travelers spend all their time at international hotels and offices; and if study abroad students spend most of their free time on Skype and Facebook, travel may have little positive benefit for improving CQ and career opportunities. Or if charitable volunteers overlook the positive aspects of the locals they encounter, the exposure can perpetuate ethnocentrism and narrow thinking. But those who venture out on their own to discover the food, transportation and people of the places they visit are very likely to enhance their CQ.[4]

The number of experiences
Individuals with multiple experiences in a variety of places experience more of the benefits of travel than those who have only been in one or two places. And the more countries where you’ve lived for more than a year, the more positive connection there is between your international experience, your CQ, and your career development.[5]

Age
Childhood experiences play less role in developing CQ than adult experiences where we make our own choices about travel, work, and interactions. But exposing kids can be very influential. The key is helping youth use the opportunity to build their own sense of self and view of the world.

The Cultural Interpreter
Whatever the age of the experience, a key variable is who helps you interpret it. If parents, faculty, youth leaders, or colleagues only point out negative aspects of a culture, travel might actually erode CQ rather than improve it. The individual who interprets what’s going on makes all the difference in whether the experience provides positive benefits or not.

Reflection and De-Brief
Many study abroad programs, expat assignments, and charitable mission trips emphasize pre-trip training. But the most important insights come from reflecting in the midst of the overseas experience and upon re-entry back home.

Simply listing international travel as a part of your resume is unlikely to yield many benefits in a job-search. But using travel to expand your view of self, integrate seemingly disparate parts, and creatively solve problems allows you to stand apart from other candidates who have traveled abroad without “seeing” anything.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”


[1] W. Maddux, E. Bivolaur, A. Hafenbrqack, C. Tadmor, & A. Galinsky. Expanding Opportunities by Opening Your Mind:Multicultural Engagement Predicts Job Market Success Through Longitudinal Increases in Integrative Complexity, Social Psychological and Personality Science, December 2013.

[2] J. Cao, A. Galinsky, & W. Maddux, Does Travel Broaden the Mind? The Breadth of Foreign Experiences Increases Generalized Trust. Social Psychology and Personality Science, December 2013.

[3] R. Nouri,, M. Erez, M., T Rockstuhl, S. Ang, L. Leshem-Calif, & A. Rafaeli, A. (forthcoming). Taking the bite out of culture: The impact of task structure and task type on overcoming impediments to cross-cultural team performance. Journal of Organizational Behavior and R. Chua, M. Morris, & S. Mor, Collaborating across cultures: Cultural metacognition and affect-based trust in creative collaboration, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 118 (2012) 116–131.

[4] C. Tay, M Westman, & A, Chia, Antecedents and Consequences of Cultural Intelligence among short-term business travelers, 126-144; S. Ang, L. Van Dyne, C. Koh, K.Y. Ng, K.J. Templer, C. Tay, & N.A. Chandrasekar. Cultural Intelligence: Its measurement and effects on cultural judgment and decision making, cultural adaptation, and task performance. Management and Organization Review, (2007) 3, 335-371.

[5] E. Shokef & M. Erea, Cultural Intelligence and Global Identity in Multicultural Teams, in S. Ang and L. Van Dyne (Eds.), Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008), 180.

How Smart Phones Lower CQ

davidlivermore | January 10th, 2013 10 Comments

Growing numbers of Study Abroad students spend most of their free time on Facebook and Skype, communicating with friends and family back home.

Business travelers often do the same thing. Evenings are spent catching up on email and communicating with family, co-workers, and friends rather than soaking up the local culture.

Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together (highly recommended!) notes the same phenomenon at professional conferences. Conference attendees are tethered to their digital devices, concerned about finding the time and space in the schedule to be alone with their digital networks. People at conferences used to chat with others while waiting for a presentation to begin or getting a taxi. Now they spend that time doing email, supposedly making better use of “downtime”.

I love that I can see and hear my kids’ voices on Skype, even when I’m on the other side of the world. But I have a growing concern that our technological advances work against so much of what is core to cultural intelligence—being fully present, deep-focused consciousness, and becoming more aware of one’s identity and culture. The growing discussion and research about the impact of technology upon our lives has profound relevance for how we think about our cross-cultural effectiveness.

Leverage Liminal Space
International Travel has always been a powerful way to gain self-awareness and perspective on life back home. But if we bring our homes with us, how might we be missing out?

You’re probably familiar with the idea of liminal space—the anthropological term for disorienting periods which foster new points of view. But technology is making liminal space harder to come by.

International travel, cross-cultural encounters, and to some degree, even retreats and conferences use to be ideal environments for liminal space. But if our driving concern is staying connected to life back home, it’s much harder to experience the disorientation and transformation these opportunities used to offer.

In June, my 15-year-old daughter will be going on her first international trip by herself. I’m grateful that she’ll rarely be more than a text message or Skype call away. Yet I wonder how that might limit her experience compared to my first overseas sojourn—where in 6 weeks, I had one or two ham radio calls home and a few letters from family and friends. My social network was stripped away. It was hard, but it forced me to directly encounter my fellow travelers, our hosts, and the local Peruvian culture.

As painful as it’s going to be, my wife and I want to limit how much we hover over our daughter’s experience in Thailand. We want to give her the liminal space she needs to shape her identity and further develop her CQ.

Eliminate Multitasking
Many of us (myself included!) think we’re immune to the studies that debunk the gains of multitasking. But the research is mounting that when we multitask, the quality of everything we do is downgraded. It feels good to multitask because our brain rewards us with a multitasking “high”. But our actual productivity and effectiveness goes down.

Turkle reports that her MIT students whose laptops are open in class don’t do as well as those who take notes on paper. She’s convinced this is mostly a result of the additional distractions that seduce the laptop students (e.g. Facebook updates, ESPN scores, YouTube etc.).

A crucial part of behaving with cultural intelligence is engaging in a high-level of self-consciousness. This includes things like perspective taking—How would I feel if I were this person right now? How do they perceive me? How do they view this situation—And it’s a matter of being self-aware. This requires a lot of brainpower, something that gets reduced when we multitask. In fact, some studies such as this one reported in The Chicago Tribune show that we actually lower our IQ when we multi-task.

Create Boundaries
Technology is not the enemy. And cold turkey approaches are unrealistic. Most of us can’t cease from all email contact when we travel nor can we expect all Study Abroad students will forego Facebook for a full semester (though if you’ve tried this and succeeded, by all means share the results!).

But we can reclaim control over our technology, rather than merely being seduced by its pings. A few simple ways to begin, when you travel and when you’re home.

1. No Phones at Meals
When sharing a meal with loved ones, colleagues, friends, or even a vendor soliciting your business, turn off your phone off for an hour. It does wonders for conversation and connection.

2. Turn off “Push”.
The “ping” of email releases dopamine in the brain. Most of us can’t resist the urge to check our phone when we hear it. A simple way to eliminate the distraction is put yourself in charge of when you get email rather than the device being in control of your attention.

 3. Schedule times to do email.
We’ve all heard this before but it bears repeating. 1-2 times a day focused on email communication is suffice for most of us. It’s amazing how quickly I get through it when it’s the only thing I’m doing for an hour. It’s also amazing how quickly it consumes 4-5 hours of my day when I’m just randomly responding as emails come in. Plus, if you’re known as someone who always responds almost immediately to email, it backfires when you actually want to take a break. And if you put up a vacation/auto-response, take advantage of it and don’t check in!

4. Don’t check email during breaks etc.
When you’re traveling or attending a conference, if at all possible, don’t check email during a brief break. There are so many times I’ve regretted checking my email at lunch break, frustrated that I don’t have adequate time to deal with some of the urgent things that have come in. And it tempts me to send off a quick response I might regret later.

 5. Re-think what’s urgent.
But what about when there are truly urgent issues that have to be addressed? Surely there are crises that emerge. But most of what we deem a crisis, really isn’t and can be delayed for a few hours, or even days.

6. Use Commute Time to Reflect and Breathe
When traveling, (or even commuting to work daily), resist the temptation to use the commute time to read email, Twitter, and Facebook. Observe what’s going on around you. Reflect upon the day’s events. Breathe deeply. This can make the difference of whether a 15-minute train ride is calming and life-giving or life-sucking.

 7. Limit the Ping Pong Effect
The problem with catching up on on my email is it induces nearly as many responses that fill my inbox all over again. Think about how to make the email threads as few as possible. Suggest a time and place to meet. And if you need to communicate to a colleague down the hall, walk down and talk to them.

The bigger challenge is implementing these boundaries. But I hope you’ll resolve with me to gain a little more control over technology this year, which will in turn improve your CQ, the quality of your work, and best of all, your overall quality of life!

What CQ Scores Matter in an Economic Recession?

davidlivermore | May 15th, 2012 1 Comment

Economic recessions have typically been times when organizations scale back their global expansion. Not this time. The economic downturn is spurring companies to become more international.

Executives from every region recognize that the greatest opportunities for growth exist beyond domestic borders.

In fact, a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit,  reported that 90% of executives surveyed predict their company’s number of overseas clients will increase in the next three years .

77% believe they will have an operational presence in more countries than they do today. Yet the same group of respondents agree that misunderstandings rooted in cultural differences are the biggest obstacle to effective expansion across borders.

Many organizations are responding to this challenge is by assessing their team’s cultural intelligence, or CQ. As many readers know, CQ assessments measure four capabilities:

CQ Drive: the interest, drive, and motivation to adapt cross-culturally

CQ Knowledge: the understanding of cultural similarities and differences

CQ Strategy: the ability to plan and be aware in light of culturally diverse situations

CQ Action: the flexibility to adapt one’s behavior when needed in a cross-cultural situation

 But simply taking an inventory of one’s strengths and weaknesses in these areas does little by itself. What’s the significance of scoring “high” in CQ Drive and low in another area?

Research reveals some interesting answers to the “So What” question.

[Click here to download a pdf of the above graphs. And visit here for the research article  in Management and Organization Review about the results of CQ.]

Culturally intelligent teams are more productive and innovative and they build a positive reputation for themselves and their organization. They naturally possess a broader knowledge of current world trends and thus their decisions and day-to-day operations are based upon a stronger grasp of relevant issues.

90% of the senior executives surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit believe increased cultural intelligence among  personnel will improve profits and revenues. Nandita Gurja of Infosys in India says, “We are a global company. We simply cannot progress without the knowledge and experience to deal with other cultures.”

Expanding internationally brings a number of risks, including legal liabilities, unpredictable situations, and an increased complexity to your operations. But when handled by a culturally intelligent team, it offers the brightest opportunity for growth and innovation in this economically volatile climate.

[More information about CQ Assessments available here.]

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