Cultures as Learning Laboratories: What Makes Some More Effective Than Others
KeywordsCommerce, Management, Tourism and Services, Business and Management, Organisational Behaviour
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AbstractWith a mandate to globalize, business school educators have increasingly embraced global service learning as an important technique for creating global mind-sets and enhancing cultural understanding in students. While we applaud this movement from the domestic to the global and from the classroom to the field in business education, we raise a fundamental question that is seldom asked when global service-learning projects are chosen: Are some cultural contexts better suited for effective cultural learning and the creation of a global mind-set? To respond to this question, we present an exploratory study of culturally inexperienced non-U.S. business students at a U.S. university engaging in a service-learning project for U.S. military veterans. In this project, the veterans with disabilities were choosing entrepreneurship and self-employment as a way to rebuild their lives. From the qualitative data collected, we observed increases in the cultural intelligence of non-U.S. students, particularly in their development of metacognitive/cognitive strategies and the enhancement of their affective/motivational resources for learning across cultures. We examined characteristics of the cultural setting of U.S. military veterans with disabilities, and proposed that four characteristics facilitated the cross-cultural learning achieved by the non-U.S. students. These include a moderate level of cultural distance, a tight culture, low context, and high moral desirability. While we hesitate to generalize beyond this cultural context and beyond culturally inexperienced students, we argue for further discussion about, consideration of, and research on the idea that cultural contexts may differ in their ability to stimulate cultural learning and global mind-set development.