What is Global Competence?
By The Editors
There are few definitions currently available to help understand what global competence is, or better, understand the current interpretations of the global competence concept.
One of these definitions is: “Having an open mind while actively seeking to understand cultural norms and expectations of others, and leveraging this gained knowledge to interact, communicate and work effectively in diverse environments.” (William D. Hunter. Got global competency? International Educator, 2: 6-12, 2004)
Another definition is: “Global Competence is the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to understand and act creatively and innovatively on issues of global significance.” (Council of Chief State School Officers’ EdSteps Project in partnership with the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning, 2010)
I think that two additional elements should be included in definitions of global competence: intellectual curiosity and empathy.
We may think of “intellectual curiosity” as contained within “actively seeking to understand” in the first definition and “dispositions to understand” in the second definition. However, “seeking” and “dispositions” may be the results of different types of motivations and do not necessarily encompass intellectual curiosity, which is a major driving force in the acquisition of true global competence.
Empathy — the intellectual identification with the needs, feelings and thoughts of other individuals — does not seem to be included in neither of the two definitions above. However, understanding and knowledge without empathy would not be sufficient to ensure deep connection at the individual level and, therefore, would limit the ability to interact, communicate and work effectively in diverse environments.
May be time to consider revising and expanding some definitions of global competence?
Global competence is taking into account issues that not just affect in our own country, but other countries as well. The actions of what others do can have an impact on us too.
The global consensus definition for global competence from Dr. William Hunter’s seminal research on the subject, “Having an open mind while actively seeking to understand cultural norms and expectations of others, and leveraging this gained knowledge to interact, communicate and work effectively in diverse environments,” was fully vetted by an panel of global experts across academia, business, and government. In fact, all three sectors have embraced the definition and the Global Competence Model around the world, since its first communication in 2004.
The dimensions of the Global Competence Model do in fact include the elements that you raised. Intellectual curiosity is part of how Global Leadership Excellence defines the Open-Minded dimension: “Being receptive to alternative possibilities, being willing to think again despite having formed an opinion, and attempting to avoid those conditions and offset those factors which limit, constrain and/or distort; having a curiosity to acquire new information from a variety of sources and perspectives.”
The other point that you raised about empathy is very important and, therefore, part of two separate Global Competence Model dimensions relating to attitudes and people skills: 1.) Attentiveness to Diversity means “Having insight, understanding, sensitivity and thoughtfulness about the potential and realized ways in which people differ, including innate and acquired characteristics”; and 2.) Intercultural Capability means “The ability to interact effectively and appropriately in cross-cultural situations; the capacity to adjust one’s approach or behavior so as to be open and flexible to other cultures.”
The other definition that you referred to is an isolated American-based attempt to define global competence from a very narrow K-12 educational lens. Initially, the parties at hand did not realize that rigorous work on the subject had been completed and published internationally several years prior. As you pointed out, their definition is inherently flawed and it can be neither “global” nor imply “competence” or readiness for the global workforce as it did not include the viewpoints of either group. Unfortunately, due to large financial backers, their internal opinions are being proselytized as “facts”–to the detriment of young American students’ global readiness and competitiveness.
This scholarly clarification of the definition of global competence is comprehensive and brings up a very important point: “the capacity to adjust one’s approach or behavior so as to be open and flexible to other cultures”. Reflecting on this concept should prove very helpful to individuals on their first international experiences, where they attempt to develop their global competence and identity “in the field”, as for example college students on their first study abroad program.
These look like the definitions used in education/academia. What are the definitions used in business? Are they very similar?
Thanks, littlesusie, for your question. You may want to read the very thoughtful and scholarly comment from Christi Hunter. She clarifies that the definition from Dr. William Hunter has been fully vetted by a panel of global experts across academia, business, and government.