Manual Social Capital and its Impact on Born Transnational Firms

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Debra, for instance, was born in Venezuela to U. She was fluent or conversant in several languages and had traveled extensively, so a new culture was less intimidating to her than it was to Alan. But in our work with senior executives from around the world as well as with students in our MBA program, we have seen that you can improve your global mind-set in measurable ways.

Table of Contents

First, however, you need to figure out where you stand today. Ability to build trusting relationships with and among people who are different from you. For intellectual capital, your capacity to understand how your business works on a global level, the three key attributes are:. Global business savvy —a strong grasp of how the industry operates worldwide, how global customers behave, how your competitors target their needs and habits, and how strategic risk varies by geography.

Cognitive complexity —the ability to piece together multiple scenarios with many moving parts, without becoming paralyzed by the number of options. Cosmopolitan outlook —an active interest in the culture, history, geography, and political and economic systems of different parts of the world. When it comes to psychological capital, receptiveness to new ideas and experiences is critical.

The main attributes are:. Passion for diversity —a penchant for exploring other parts of the world, experiencing other cultures, and trying new ways of doing things. Thirst for adventure —an appreciation for and ability to thrive in unpredictable and complex environments. Self-assurance —self-confidence, a sense of humor, a willingness to take risks in new contexts, and high levels of energy; the ability to be energized, rather than drained, by a foreign context.

For social capital, which helps you build trusting relationships with people who are different from you, the three most important attributes are:. Intercultural empathy —the ability to engage and connect emotionally with people from other parts of the world.

Interpersonal impact —the ability to bring together divergent views, develop consensus, and maintain credibility; and skill at building networks—not just with peers and senior leaders but with other, less obvious potential connections. Diplomacy —listening to what is said and what is not said, ease in conversations with people who are different from you, and a greater inclination to ask than to answer. To help executives determine how they stack up, we have designed a tool that measures the extent to which they possess these critical attributes.

To participate, go to www. Thousands of managers have completed this diagnostic. To test its effectiveness, we compared the scores of almost 1, managers in two multibillion-dollar corporations with corporate evaluations of their effectiveness as global leaders. The results clearly showed that managers who had high scores were rated very positively by their own performance management systems. We have developed a item test to help you determine the degree to which you possess the attributes critical to global success. Below is a question sample. To get a sense of how you stand in each type of capital, total up the scores for that section and divide by four.

The Transnational Capitalist Class and the Discourse of Globalization

An average score of more than 4 indicates a strength; 3 or 4 is reasonably good but shows room for improvement; and below 3 suggests a need for significant improvement. While this is an abbreviated version of our instrument, you can complete the full test at www. In fact, the test scores of our opening examples, Debra and Alan, would have predicted their overseas results.

Once you have a good picture of where you stand, you can put together a development plan. The advice we give managers is to pursue a variety of activities that will build the three kinds of capital, focusing first on the area where they are weakest. But they do work. Participants in our executive education programs also see a marked improvement in scores. Our most recent list of recommendations is available at hbr. Please feel free to add your own ideas or comment on our suggestions.

You cannot effectively influence people who are different from yourself without a good understanding of what those differences are. For example, Alan believed there was a higher degree of collectivism in China than in the United States, so he expected his Chinese executives to be more cooperative and focused on the good of the organization as a whole. But his grasp of Chinese culture was pretty thin.

Therefore, to succeed in China, any change process has to be clearly laid out, in very specific steps. Alan also would have benefited from an appreciation of the similarities between Chinese and Americans. Chinese managers, like their U. Had Alan considered that, he might have given his team more detailed metrics and targets, and ended up less frustrated.

Managing Yourself: Making It Overseas

Managers can learn more about cross-cultural similarities and differences not just in classrooms but by reading publications with strong global coverage, like the Economist and Foreign Affairs ; visiting websites that offer in-depth reports on countries, such as CultureGrams. They can stretch their cognitive abilities by trying out the puzzles in a magazine like Scientific American.

Other ways to build intellectual capital include attending lectures and workshops on doing business in a specific country or region, or country-focused conferences, such as the Russia Business Roundtable and Indonesia Summit hosted by the Economist Group. Intellectual capital is by far the easiest of the three types of capital to develop. Most managers who are very successful on the domestic front—those managers likely to be given developmental global assignments—simply need to make the effort to acquire it. This is the most difficult type of capital to develop because there are limits to how much you can or should try to change your personality.

Nonetheless, our view, backed by scientific research in the field of psychology and professional development, is that you can make some improvements in this area, even though they may not be as large as those you can make in intellectual or social capital. We recommend that you start with deep reflection on two questions, which will increase your self-awareness and, ideally, inspire a desire to change. First, ask yourself, How do I feel about people, places, and things that are foreign to me?

And second, ask, Do I feel the need to change my feelings in any way? The idea is to expose yourself to new experiences and ideas, so try talking more with people outside your usual social circles, and experiment with international movies, restaurants, and museums. This type of capital is largely relationship-based and acquired through experience. However, it is possible to increase your ability to emotionally connect with people who are different from you—people not just from other countries but from other subcultures within your own country.

The trick is to widen your circle of social interaction to include individuals with interests that diverge from yours. For instance, you might learn something from mixing with people whose professional aspirations differ significantly from your own—say, actors or musicians. To do that, you could enroll in a theater or music class. Participating on international business teams and taking on assignments that require you to travel abroad are obvious ways to build your global social capital.

It is not a new process, of course; local cultures have long been influenced — and even shaped — by outside forces, and, historically, have become detached from their local anchorings under capitalism. The current phase of globalization differs from the past because of the dramatically increased transnational movement of material foods, images, and people, which leads to new mixtures of culture or hybridization.

Cultural goods with indefinite origins abound; what appears to be traditional, on closer inspection is invented, and what seems to be homogeneous, is hybrid. The major dynamics involved in cultural globalization can be summarized in terms of the following dualities and related dialectical interplays:.


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Universalization versus particularization. Whereas globalization universalizes certain aspects of modern social life e. Homogenization versus differentiation. Globalization tends to bring about a certain sameness to the surface appearance and institutions of modern social life across the globe. On the other hand, it also entails the incorporation and re-articulation of the global in relation to local circumstances. Integration versus fragmentation. Whereas globalization leads to new forms of global, regional and transnational communities or organizations that unite people across geographic boundaries, it also divides and fragments communities, both within and across nation-state boundaries.

Centralization versus decentralization. Globalization facilitates an increasing concentration of power, knowledge, information, capital etc. Juxtaposition versus syncretization. Globalization brings about the coexistence of different cultures, ways of life, and social practices. This reinforces boundaries and articulates sociocultural differences and prejudices, but simultaneously creates shared cultural identities and social spaces, in which an intermingling of ideas, knowledge, values, lifestyles and so on takes place McGrew, : One overarching feature needs to be highlighted here: The emerging global culture brings along transnationally shared discourses encompassing sets of common structures and categories that organize differences.

This term refers to a new global hegemony, that is a hegemony of structure, not of content. The new global cultural system promotes difference, but selects the dimensions of difference, thereby celebrating particular kinds of diversity, while submerging, deflating or suppressing others. In order to get a good intellectual grip on cultural globalization we need to broaden our perspective. This means that we should avoid both technological and economic determinism and all other one-sided perspectives on globalization in favor of a view that sees globalization as a highly complex, contradictory, and thus ambiguous set of institutions and social relations, as well as one involving flows of goods, services, ideas, technologies, practices, cultural forms and people.

The dynamics of globalization are very unevenly distributed around the globe, between regions and between different strata of the population within regions. A significant factor is the unequal geographic power distribution of globalization. How individuals experience and respond to the forces of globalization is, to a great extent, a consequence of their economic, social, and geographic positions in the world. Globalization imposed from above can be contested and reconfigured from below Steger, : Global forces from above may very well advance democratization and the spread of human rights in various areas of the world, while globalization from below may promote special interests or reactionary goals for example, in the case of transnational right-wing movements, extreme fundamentalist-religious groups or terrorist networks.

Thus, globalization exists of fundamental transformations in the world economy, politics, and culture, which entail contradictions and ambiguities, that is, both progressive and emancipatory features and oppressive and negative attributes. Contrary to modernization theorists of the s and s who tended to attach merely positive values of progress to such processes, classical theorists of modernity recognized that the modern world was ambiguous in its capacity to deliver human happiness and fulfillment. Modernity, in particular the scientific rationality and the liberal-democratic political projects associated with the Enlightenment, delivered emancipation from many forms of domination.

Each of these views recognized that one form of domination had been replaced by another — they differed in their precise analysis of the source of this domination Tomlinson, : To the extent that this heritage of classical sociology acknowledges the discontents at the core of modernity as well as its historical changes it still has its merits as a living tradition for analyses of modern life today Turner, But in trying to develop a more up-to-date approach, we must account for the existence of multiple modernities, that is, a number of different sites and forms of modernity, including those outside the West Featherstone et al.

Processes of modernity may be globally alike to the extent that they all entail the demolishing of the old order to make room for the new. But the values, norms, and cultural forms and practices that result from these processes, the way in which they are interpreted, and even the driving forces behind them, may differ from one cultural context to the other Therborn, Denning stipulates that area studies such as American Studies in the traditional sense fitted well with the period between and when the world was conventionally divided into discrete, partitioned spaces: the capitalist First World, the communist Second World, and the decolonizing Third World.


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This position is open to question, however. The increasing importance of transnational corporations and other non-state actors and agencies notwithstanding, many states have survived intact and a number of new ones have been founded. The available evidence points to the sustained importance of the nation-state as a political and economic entity, and this certainly holds true for the United States.

These changes are a pre-condition for further globalization and a consequence of it. But this reconfiguration is to some extent a question of deliberate choice. The rapid expansion of global economic activity since the s is first of all a result of political decisions made by governments to lift the international restrictions on capital as part of a more general adoption of neoliberal policies.

Once these decisions were implemented, the technology came into its own, and accelerated the speed of communication and calculations that helped bring the movement of money to an extraordinary level.