The past week I attended for the first time the Western Academy of Management – Western in terms of geographical location in the US – in Napa Valley (hence the theme of the congress “In Vino, Veritas”). Here are some of my highlights:
Quite a few of the sessions offered some inspiration for teaching, for example talking about what universities can do to bridge the gap between the skills that students have and what companies would like them to have when they hire them. I attended one workshop where three experiential exercises were explained which you can use to teach about leadership. We experienced one ourselves and that was very interesting because it highlighted the scope of learning that can be done within one experiential exercise. There are lots of those exercises around – I am told a good book about this is by Osland et al.: “Organizational Behavior: An Experiential Approach”.
Developing intercultural competence in students
Another interesting session was the one of Mendenhall, Oddou, Bird and Osland, right at the beginning of the congress. They each talked about the different ways in which they try to develop students’ intercultural competence instead of only teaching them about it. For example, Joyce Osland talked in some detail about the Global Leadership Passport Programme at San Jose State University, with various levels to be achieved and an extensive range of activities that can get you ‘stamps’ in your passport. Also, Gary Oddou explained how service learning assignments within the local community can be a way to build intercultural competence, especially if there are financial restraints. A central element in all of their activities is the personal development plan, in which students outline their goals to work towards them, as well as self-reflection.
As I currently live in Denmark I found Paik’s paper (1) about transparency in Nordic countries very interesting. Denmark is currently the country which is perceived as least corrupt in the world. Finland, Sweden and Norway follow closely. He examined why especially these countries developed such transparent business environments, using the three ‘pillars’ of institutional structure (the regulative, normative and cognitive-cultural pillar). He found that the cognitive-cultural pillar is the driving force. Certain characteristics of these cultures, for example values such as trust, openness, humility and honesty but also the small population size where reputation is important, are conducive to the development of transparent business environments. I am looking forward to reading this paper because I think I will learn some more about the region I am living in now!
All in all it was a very interesting, fruitful and enjoyable congress – even though I did not get to have as much wine as might be expected when attending a congress with a theme “In Vino, Veritas”!
(1) Paik, Yongsun. Institutional Pillars that Contribute to High Transparency in Nordic Countries: A Multiple Case Study. Paper presentation at the Western Academy of Management, Napa Valley, March 2014.