Bubbled thinking
The True Faces of Islam

The world on our mind

ThinkGlobally In Rebuilding Brand America, I used the low number of Americans with passports to illustrate our relative disinterest in and indifference to the rest of the world.  

At that time, only about a third of U.S. citizens had a passport. The number of applications popped up significantly in 2007 and 2008 when the State Department started requiring a passport for re-entry from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, but it returned to prior levels in 2010.  

Something like 37% of Americans now have a passport or passport card. (The 3.5 million who have cards can only use them for travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.) By contrast, seven out of ten Brits have a passport.

Mansour Javidan, a professor at Thunderbird University, has a theory that explains Americans' relative indifference to the rest of the world. Javidan thinks that the attention any society pays to other countries is a function of their historical need to do so. 

“Canadians pay attention to what is going on in the U.S. every minute of the day,” he says. “Because what happens in the U.S. has a huge impact on what happens in Canada.  But most Americans don’t know anything about what’s going on in Canada, except that the people are friendly and it’s cold up there.  Because what happens in Canada doesn’t have much of an impact on what happens in the U.S.”  

The Brits, who used to have an empire that spanned the globe, are brought up with a global mindset.  Americans, who have historically been pretty self-sufficient, didn't need one. But that may be changing.

Javidan developed an online tool that enables managers to measure their "global mindset."  About 10,000 managers at dozens of companies around the world have taken the self-assessment.  It helped them decide if they were suited for an internationbal assignment and what they could do to better prepare.  

It also gave Javidan a valuable database of information. Javidan says that when he compared the Global Mindset scores of managers from ten different countries, American managers were firmly in the middle of the pack. 

Of course the managers who used the Global Mindset instrument represent a self-selected group of people who are almost by definition interested in global markets. And Javidan doesn't have data on the general public. But his findings may portend big changes.  

As everyone knows, American business is becoming increasingly global, and the salience of what is happening in other countries has grown for many U.S. managers.  Three-quarters of Fortune 100 CEOs have spent at least two years working in a senior position overseas. The percentage of other senior executives with overseas experience has jumped to 71 percent from 48 percent 10 years ago.

If the days of global indifference are fading for American business people,the general public may not be far behind.  That can be positive if people see the rest of the world as a source of economic and cultural enrichment.  Or it can be negative if they see it as a threat. Right now, the latter looks more likely. 




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