The University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business kicked off International Education Week, a joint initiative of the national Departments of State and Education, with a session on Global Competence in Business. The panel discussion featured the expertise of global executives as well as Mohamed Abdel-Kader, deputy assistant secretary of international and foreign language education at the U.S. Department of Education.
In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, panelists reflected on the way that global security concerns have impacted their businesses. Global organizations must find ways to safeguard their employees, act responsibly in local communities, and foster social responsibility in risky economies, said panelists.
Sustainability, environmental performance, and supply chain security are other issues that impact global businesses, said Trevor Gunn, vice president of international relations for Medtronic: "These are the issues that all multi-national companies are dealing with."
Jing Vivatrat, managing director, Asia Group, described the cultural differences that often become a stumbling block to business leaders internationally. To conduct business in another culture you can't just understand the local language; you must also understand the differences in legal systems, norms for negotiating, how teams are formed, how successes are celebrated, and even the unwritten rules governing what topics are okay for conversations.
Abdel-Kader emphasized the need to learn languages in order to build work effectively with business partners, and the importance of leaving behind "American-centric" attitudes in order to learn from those with whom you are doing business. "Being empathetic and flexible are as important as having executive competencies," said Abdel-Kader.
"Being authentic is so important and will get you past a lot of missteps," agreed Wendy Lawson, vice president of global learning for Discovery Communications. "That is one of the most critical qualities for communicating with others."
International Education Week is sponsored by the Smith School's Center for International Business, Education and Research (CIBER).
- Jing Vivatrat, managing director, Asia Group
- Wendy Lawson, VP of Global Learning, Discovery Communications
- Mohamed Abdel-Kader, deputy assistant secretary, international and foreign language education, U.S. Department of Education
- Trevor Gunn, VP International Relations, Medtronic
- Rebecca Winner, Office of Marketing Communications