Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Monday, 18 June 2018 13:58

Going Beyond Global: Cultural Learning Opportunities for the HR Professional

Written by Dr. Richard Griffith

capt scott ii 

Captain Scott discussing how he communicated to his Japanese teammate in a mission of catching a satellite in space.

The 2018 Cross Cultural Management Summit, hosted by The Institute for Cross Cultural Management at Florida Tech, was held in March at the Caribe Royale Resort in Orlando, Florida. The event, which was sponsored in part by HR Florida, brings the top thinkers in international HR, cross cultural management, and global leadership together for two days to learn, network, and share experiences. The theme of the 2018 Summit was Going Beyond Global, and used the difficulties of the Mars mission to highlight the challenges that HR leaders face when preparing their organizations to execute a global business strategy.

Perhaps no challenge will be greater than extending the reach of humanity beyond the planet Earth through the colonization of Mars. Traveling to Mars, our nearest neighbor, is no drive around the block. A one way trip to Mars will cover at least 33 million miles. The mission will undoubtedly be an international endeavor that will utilize the talents of a culturally diverse support team which will need to innovate and problem solve in real time to support the crews traveling to an inhabit their new home. The crew members themselves will be culturally diverse, likely comprised of astronauts from Russia, China, Japan, the U.S., and other partner nations.

In many ways HR professionals have been tackling these issues for decades as businesses have evolved and adapted to the pressures of globalization. Many HR professionals have risen to the challenges of preparing leaders for international joint ventures and expatriate assignments, often working in global virtual teams themselves to support the global mission of their organization. Much like their counterparts at NASA and Space X, HR professionals in Florida must acquire new skillsets and alter their approach to successfully achieve these difficult tasks. The Cross Cultural Management Summit provided this opportunity.

The Summit kicked off with a dinner key note by Captain Winston Scott, retired US Navy officer and Astronaut. He served on two space shuttle missions and logged 24 days in space, which included three spacewalks. Captain Scott shared his story regarding the international nature of his missions and the difficulties posed by language and culture. He communicated that these challenges were significant, but they could be overcome by training. While the sense of mission was strong enough to minimize the differences in the astronaut’s background, Captain Scott emphasized that when those differences were appreciated and appropriately leveraged, they made the team stronger.

The following morning started with a discussion on expatriation and repatriation led by Sonya Kaleel, Senior Consultant at Aperian Global. Ms. Kaleel first presented the tremendous difficulties executives face when they are assigned abroad, and the significant costs to organizations when those assignments fail. She then discussed an evidencebased model of the individual characteristics that lead to successful assignments and the importance of assessing candidates and preparing them prior to departure.

dr trompenaars 

Dr. Trompenaars challenging the audience to see a dilemma from a brand new angle.

Later in the afternoon, Dr. Fons Trompenaars presented his insights on how organizational culture can either hinder or support innovation. Dr. Trompenaars is one of the pioneers in the area of culture and has been honored by Thinkers50 as one of the most influential management thought leaders. He has spent more than two decades helping Fortune 500 leaders solve cultural dilemmas and increase global effectiveness. Dr. Trompenaars argued that innovation was a natural outcome of solving dilemmas, and presented a methodology that leaders could use to approach organizational dilemmas in a way that would grow innovation rather than stifle it.

On the second day, Carolyn Fennel, the senior director of public affairs and community relations for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, discussed how the Orlando International Airport is approaching the three billion dollar expansion of the airport with the goal of being the World’s First Culturally Competent Airport. She started with the history of the airport and explained how the thinking of the airport executives evolved as more international travelers came to Orlando. The airport has now designed their new South Terminal with the international traveler in mind, with culture and the customer experience driving their business strategy. In the next two years, the Orlando airport will be training more than 20,000 employees in cultural competence and customer experience to ensure all travelers have the ideal Orlando Experience characterized by Florida hospitality with global sophistication.

dr tarter 

Dr. Tarter showing the audience how we calibrate our place in the universe.

Dr. Jill Tarter, former director for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, closed the Summit by challenging the perspective of the audience. Jill Tarter has spent the majority of her professional career attempting to answer the age-old question “Are we alone?” by searching for evidence of technological civilizations beyond Earth through a marvelous discussion of the vastness of our universe. She discussed the notion that, despite our cultural differences, we are much more similar than dissimilar and that our fate as a species will ultimately be determined by our ability to work together.

participants summit 

Participants engaging in interactive activities to practice what they learned from the Summit to solve cross-cultural dilemmas.

Throughout the Summit, participants engaged in interactive exercises that allowed them to utilize their learning to solve some of the pressing problems facing the Mars mission. Participants worked together at their tables to discuss potential solutions to dilemmas posed by the Summit organizers, and then shared their solutions through the use of the conference app and guided facilitation. These exercises proved to be one of the highlights of the Summit. The feedback from the attendees highlighted the diversity of the speakers, networking opportunities, and overall learning as providing tremendous value. In addition, the summit programs and preconference workshops in cross cultural competence and global leadership provided recertification credit opportunities for HR professionals with SHRM and HRCI Certifications.

The next summit will be held in 2020 and we look forward to future collaborations with HR Florida. We hope to see you there!

The Institute for Cross Cultural Management helps organizations adapt, prepare, and prosper in the global environment. Learn more about ICCM at

richard griffith

Richard Griffith, Ph.D. is a Professor of Industrial Organizational Psychology and the Executive Director of The Institute for Cross Cultural Management at the Florida Institute of Technology. Dr. Griffith provides coaching in global leadership and executive presentations, specializing in presentations conducted abroad. He is the Associate Editor of the European Journal of Psychological Assessment and the co-editor of “Internationalizing the Organizational Psychology Curriculum,” “Leading Global Teams” and the upcoming book “Critical Issues in Cross Cultural Management.” He is the author of over 100 publications, presentations, and book chapters and has conducted funded research for the Department of Defense examining the assessment and development of cross-cultural competence. His work has been featured in Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal.