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Darla Moore School of Business

Three skill sets for the next generation of international business leaders

What skills should International Business graduates have for the next phase of globalization? Sonoco International Business Department professor Nancy Buchan and her Moore School collaborators answer this question in their article, “Changes in Globalization: How Should IB Education Respond?” 

This article recently appeared in the flagship magazine of the Academy of International Business, the premier global community of international business scholars. 

Globalization has changed significantly since the 1980s. Geopolitical upheaval, environmental degradation, increasing inequality within and across societies and advancing technology reset the game board for international business students. IB education must adapt and prepare students to grapple with these new dynamics. 

For example, advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning will reduce the number of jobs for most rudimentary forms of analysis. Whereas previous generations of students learned “what” were the dynamics at play in business across borders, Moore School professors Buchan, Elizabeth Ravlin and Orgul Ozturk point out students need to understand “why” certain conditions emerge. By analyzing employment data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET database, the three sets of Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) were distinguished as increasing in demand since 1980. 

First, the key knowledge is related to broad learning, such as understanding foreign languages, sociology and anthropology, law, governance and jurisprudence, and negotiation. The ability to connect the dots across complex systems is critical for navigating a world with increasing volatility, unpredictability, complexity and ambiguity. 

The ability to apply different frames of reference to problems for firms and society breaks the mold of depth over breadth — as new perspectives shed light on old problems. These different frameworks also provide an advantage to contextualize the local dynamics of global policies, which are increasingly important as globalization continues onward. 

Second, the key skills are not easily replicable by artificial intelligence, such as social perceptiveness, coordination and persuasion. While some obsolescence may affect many functions, people will remain a key component of international business. Negotiating deals across cultures, organizing teams of people and winning business for their firms are actions carried out by people — for now. These types of interpersonal capabilities will be vital as the competition increases over fewer positions. 

Third, the key abilities are experiential, especially those reliant on autonomy and independence. An individual’s capacity to work on their own to balance interests of local and global stakeholders, “figure it out” and continually learn will be key in constantly changing, complex and uncertain environments. The question of returning to work after the pandemic, for example, is such a case. Without the traditional experience of in-person office work, individuals will need to be prepared for less guidance and higher expectations.

So, what does this look like? Research shows that the best IB education provides for higher-level analytical thinking, increased learning capacity and experience-based opportunities. Students excel when they have more practice grappling with different cultures and peoples through immersive study abroad opportunities along with dynamic projects in the classroom involving people and problems from the local culture.

Integrating different outlooks on IB topics enables students to consider different perspectives. Instilling an attitude of lifelong learning is key for students to adapt to the next phase of globalization. 

Read the complete article.

Read more IB stories in the November 2021 "The Edge" E-Newsletter.

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