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Are you OK being in a tricky situation? You might have a high global mindset.
Even company managers who never leave the U.S. need a high global mindset.
December 18, 2015

Thunderbird professor directs institute devoted to cross-cultural business

Pretend you’re a male American corporate manager who has been negotiating contracts for weeks with a male manager from a Saudi Arabian company. The talks are going well, and on the way to lunch, he holds your hand.

Whether your reaction is “my, how interesting” or “eek!” says a lot about your global mindset.

The “global mindset” is a point of view that embraces diversity, even when the differences are stark — like businessmen holding hands in some Middle Eastern countries, where it signifies respect and friendship. That attitude is critical for people in the modern marketplace, whether their cubicles are in Mesa or Mumbai.

“The biggest part of the picture is people working in their own country, but working with people from other parts of the world,” said Mansour Javidan, founder and executive director of the Najafi Global Mindset InstituteThe institute is named for Francis Najafi, a private equity executive who is a Thunderbird alum and former member of the board of trustees. He financed research and the renovation of the Yount Building on campus, which houses the institute. at the Thunderbird School of Global ManagementThe Thunderbird School of Global Management is part of Arizona State University. in Glendale.

“You can be working in Phoenix but your client happens to be in Argentina, or your strategic partners happen to be Malaysian.”

Doing business across cultures introduces a complexity that managers must be prepared to confront. How do you stimulate innovation in Russia, where the workers are used to a rigid hierarchy? How do you arrive and start managing a Danish office, where the culture doesn’t believe in bosses?

Javidan will be spreading his message to a larger audience in 2016 as the institute works with more university business schools to develop managers for companies that are increasingly seeking to sell, buy or invest across borders.

“This issue of dealing with people different from you is not an American problem, not a Russian problem, not a Chinese problem. It’s a human problem,” JavidanIn addition to heading the Najafi Global Mindset Institute, Javidan is the Garvin Distinguished Professor. said.

“It’s not about geography. It’s about the distance between your way of doing things and other people’s way of doing things.”

Cross-cultural leaders

In Turkey, business leaders are dictatorial but paternalistic.

“They are expected to take care of employees the way a father would take care of his children,” Javidan said.

“In the U.S., that relationship does not exist. In fact, if a leader behaves that way, he or she is seen as intrusive, because there is a boundary between business and personal.”

Javidan’s work at the institute is based on decades of research he has done on the cultural profilesThat ongoing work is Project GLOBE, or Global Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness Research Program, which Javidan worked on with dozens of other researchers around the world. One finding: Eastern European cultures are much more averse to uncertainty than western European cultures. of different countries and the attributes of successful organizational leaders.

Javidan began to work on the Global Mindset Inventory in 2004, when he came to Thunderbird.


Mansour Javidan
Mansour Javidan is founding director of the Najafi Global Mindset Institute at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.


“Thunderbird is very practically oriented. We are trying to help executives, managers and students not just learn theories and concepts but also how to apply them in the real world,” he said.

He worked with several other Thunderbird professors to determine the individual characteristics that help managers work across cultures. They spent three years doing hundreds of interviews in many countries and finally refined the result into the Global Mindset Inventory, to measure those characteristics.

The 76-item survey, taken online, measures attributes in three areas:

Intellectual capital: This includes business savvy and whether a manager can analyze and interpret information quickly. For example, an Asian manager in Cuba wanted to reward an employee, which is illegal there. But he knew that one supermarket in Havana caters only to foreigners, so he cleverly took the employee to the store and bought him a shopping cart full of merchandise.

Psychological capital: This is a personality component having to do with a person’s passion for diversity, quest for adventure and self-assurance. One example is a manager's willingness to accept new customs, such as drinking in bars with co-workers late into the night, which is common in Japan.

Social capital: This is the behavioral part, including how well the person can negotiate and build relationships. A leader might have to manage a team that includes Germans, who respect the use of formal titles, and Scandinavian people, who find titles off-putting.


Global Mindset Inventory
The Global Mindset Inventory measures personal characteristics that can determine how competent a manager would be to work across cultures.


After taking the survey, managers go through several hours of debriefing to interpret the results. They also receive a copy of “Developing Your Global Mindset: The Handbook for Successful Global Leaders,” written by Javidan and Jennie Walker, director of global learning and market development for the Najafi Global Mindset Institute. The book is loaded with ideas for improving all three areas of the mindset.

For instance, a businesswoman traveled to Argentina, where she was pointedly asked her opinion on the Malvinas Islands. She had never heard of them, but discovered that Argentina and Britain are in dispute over the islands' control, and that Argentinians have strong opinions. The lesson: Learn about local history.

Currently, about 350 people are certified to give the survey, and the institute will run two-day certification courses in January and March. The organization also offers corporate training programs, which draw participants from all over the world.

“The toughest part is the psychological side because it’s rooted in your personality, your years of development as an individual, your childhood and educational experiences and your family. It’s cumulative and that’s why it’s harder to change," Javindan said.

“You can’t teach it. You can’t run a course in passion.”

All Thunderbird students are invited to take the Global Mindset Inventory before and after their program, and they typically see big improvement in intellectual and social capital and smaller gains in psychological.

Being uncomfortable

Javidan said that one global CEO he knew described the global mindset as “being comfortable with being uncomfortable in an environment that’s uncomfortable.”

“For most normal people, our comfort zone is dealing with people like us. Deal with people different than us and we’re out of our comfort zone. The question is: What is your attitude toward that?

“Someone with a low global mindset wants to get out of it as soon as possible because the discomfort is too high. Someone with a high global mindset says, 'Wow, look at how these people do it. I’ll learn something.' "

Javidan said that Americans typically score in the middle range. Chinese and Japanese managers, whose cultures are more homogenous, have lower scores.

“Brazilian managers have higher scores because of the way they grow up,” he said. “Brazil is a real mix of everything — ethnicities, religions, languages. The typical Brazilian child grows up learning that diversity is natural.”

Javidan said that being open to interactions with other cultures is especially important in the current world climate.

“Politics that label diversity of any kind as evil can be very attractive in the short term, and be emotionally very appealing, but it can also cause a lot of damage.

“We have thousands of years of human history to teach us that.”

For information about the Global Mindset Facilitator Workshops at Thunderbird on Jan. 6-8 and March 9-11, visit this site.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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'Artscientist' merges photography and sustainability

ASU grad brings an artistic view into the scientific world.
December 18, 2015

ASU doctoral grad Edgar Cardenas uses his own backyard to document the changes people can make

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of student profiles that are part of our December 2015 commencement coverage.

“The objective is to teach the student to see the land, to understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands”
—  Aldo Leopold, from “The Role of Wildlife in a Liberal Education”

As a high school student in rural Wisconsin, Edgar Cardenas liked to draw. But after high school he stopped creating art, “because I thought I was supposed to be a grown-up.” 

No one in Cardenas’ family had finished high school — not his mother and father, who were both immigrants from Mexico, or his stepfather, a devout Jevovah’s Witness who considered higher education a distraction from religion. Even the guidance counselor at the high school assumed Cardenas wouldn’t continue his education: When he expressed interest in a psychology class, the counselor told him that was for students who were going to college.

Cardenas took the class anyway. He got an A.

Years later he has earned his doctorate from Arizona State University's School of Sustainability as a photographer who brings an artistic view into the scientific world.

After high school, Cardenas knew, he was “supposed to” get a job. He said he tried, first building fiberglass semi trailers, then cellphones on the factory line at Motorola. But he couldn’t do work he didn’t enjoy, he said. He decided to go to community college. He also joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Unaware that there was such a thing as financial aid, he worked as a night janitor for the Beloit school district to support himself while he took classes, sleeping when he could. After a few years, he transferred to Gordon College, in Massachusetts, where he received a bachelor's degree in psychology. From there, he went on to graduate school at the University of New Haven and earned a master's degree in industrial/organizational psychology.

It was only after his master's program that he found his way back to art by starting to take photos. At the time he was working as an organizational development consultant, once again doing the thing he thought he was “supposed to do.” But his heart wasn’t in it. 

One day he walked into a gallery in New Haven and encountered the photographs of Walker Evans. He met the curator, John Hill, who had provided the work for the exhibition and knew Evans personally, and they started talking. One thing led to another, Cardenas said, and he began working in Hill’s studio and getting an informal education in the history of photography.

Two guys with something interesting in their hands.

Edgar Cardenas (left) and ASU
Regents' Professor Mark Klett
at Cardenas' graduation.

Courtesy photo

“I was working as a consultant still,” Cardenas said, “but I didn’t like the work. Then the firm disbanded and they asked me if I wanted to go to another firm. And I decided that no, I wanted to be a photo assistant.”

He took a significant pay cut to go to work for New Haven photographer Robert Lisak, a Yale MFA grad. He also started studying for his GRE, because he’d learned about the School of Sustainability at ASU and was interested in applying and earning a doctorate.

“Sustainability was attractive (to me) because of its interdisciplinarity,” Cardenas said. “I knew when I applied to ASU that what I had wanted to do was blend image-making with the sciences.”

By his second semester at ASU, he had connected with renowned geologist-turned-photographer Mark Klett, an ASU Regents' Professor, who invited Cardenas to take his Photography Fieldwork course, which pairs trained photographers with scientists. Cardenas explains the course as “understanding Phoenix through image-making,” in the spirit of the old survey photographers who came out and documented the West.

“[Graduate students] at the University of Arizona, where I’ve gone to speak a few times, all say, ‘You guys are doing the creative stuff up there. We’re not allowed to do stuff like that.’ ”
— Edgar Cardenas, ASU doctoral graduate from the School of Sustainability

Through that class and others in the School of Art and the School of Sustainability, Cardenas was able to accomplish two things.

First, he found his art community.

“Before coming to ASU, I had mentors, but I didn’t have a cohort,” he said. Once he had a community, “we could comment on each other’s work. It was a way of getting me up and running on the ideas I wanted to explore and how I wanted to communicate them.”

Second, he was able to continue his pursuit of projects that combined both art and science.

“Artists and scientists do a similar thing,” Cardenas explained. “They take data and they organize it. They just do that differently.”

For his culminating project, Cardenas looked close to home.

“Within sustainability we abstract a lot of ideas. We think about them in a global context. I started thinking about how we exercise our sustainability. I started with the backyard, which is a personal space. How do I practice sustainability in a personal space?”

The body of work he produced is called “One Hundred Little Dramas.” Cardenas observed and documented, through photography and video, how he transformed the backyard over the course of three years. That transformation involved collecting what amounted to hundreds of pounds of compost from the School of Sustainability, plus people’s discarded leaves and wood chips.

“I told people, bring me the waste so I can use it as input for my garden. I was changing the backyard in these ways that would transform it into a different ecological space. I was aware that I was building a habitat for lizards, for birds. I would learn about where the lizards would lay their eggs so we wouldn’t step on those spaces. I saved many baby birds and took them to an aviary. I planted sunflower seeds for the birds. You get in tune with the rhythm of the space.” 

For Cardenas, the work wasn’t just about documenting a place. It was about understanding that place on multiple levels.

“Understanding how ecology works in these little places, that transforms the way you see places you hike, for example. It changes your perspective on the world.”

Cardenas said he doesn’t think he could have produced his dissertation, which gave equal weight to the arts and to the sciences, anywhere but at ASU.

“I brought together perspectives on aesthetics and Aldo Leopold’s relevance to sustainability, produced a thesis exhibit, and then conducted a social psychological study, all under the sustainability umbrella,” Cardenas said. “These three components would not have come together anywhere else.”

His committee consisted of photographer Klett; environmental ethicist and conservation scholar Ben Minteer; sociologist Ed Hackett; and ecologist Dan Childers, who runs the Wetland Ecosystem Ecology Lab at ASU.

“It’s a double-edged sword when you have a program that is very interdisciplinary,” Cardenas said. “You have a lot of rope to hang yourself. But if you’re going to do a project that’s really innovative, you need a lot of rope to run around. And they provided me that.

“People [graduate students] at the University of Arizona, where I’ve gone to speak a few times, all say, ‘You guys are doing the creative stuff up there. We’re not allowed to do stuff like that.’ ”

“Edgar was the first student to pursue such an ambitious agenda integrating art and science, and he was equally proficient in both,” said Klett, who hooded Cardenas at the School of Sustainability graduation ceremony on Dec. 15. “His research was groundbreaking, and it opens the door for future students to pursue a similar path in art and science.”

According to School of Art director Adriene Jenik, the success of Cardenas’ work has helped pave the way for discussions about the possibility of a concurrent degree in art and sustainability, which she sees as a natural fit. In addition to Klett, both Julie Anand and visiting artist Christine Lee teach courses in the School of Art that combine art and sustainability.

Whatever Cardenas does going forward, it will involve both art and science. On his website Cardenas lists himself as an “artscientist,” and he believes that both disciplines benefit from the marriage of the two.

“Art and science provide us with different kinds of information,” he said. “I don’t think they can be overlaid. They come together like a puzzle. I find that the sciences provide us with rich data on the dynamics that are taking place in the world. But that information has to be coupled with our value structures. Art raises that awareness — it raises questions about what we want in our lives and how we think about that more deeply.”

Deborah Sussman Susser

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts