Would you describe yourself as a task-oriented leader or a relationship-oriented leader? This week, you read about the style and skills approaches to leadership. Consider the styles and skills addressed in this week’s media, Effective Leadership Styles and Find Your Personal Communication Style. Are communication or social interaction skills necessary for every leader? Will a particular style work best in certain situations? 
Imagine that you work for a large, UK-based pharmaceutical corporation and you have just been assigned to lead a team in a new branch office that is located in Lagos, Nigeria. As the leader, you have to decide whom to hire, how to achieve the first-year goals that have been given to you, and how to create a timeline for key milestones. 
With these thoughts in mind, for this week’s second discussion, post a 1,000- to 1,500-word response to the following question to the Discussion Board:
•	How will the concepts addressed in this week’s textbook reading as well as in the articles ‘Developing Advanced Decision-Making Skills in International Leaders and Managers’ and ‘From Experience to Experiential Learning: Cultural Intelligence as a Learning Capability for Global Leader Development’ help you succeed in this new assignment? 

Developing Advanced Decision-
Making Skills in International
Leaders and Managers
Asila Safi and Darrell Norman Burrell
Socially, economically, politically, and technologically, our world is transforming in complex
ways that are beyond what we could have fathomed even five years ago. Now, more than ever,
managerial decisions have far-reaching consequences in the way that organizations fail or
succeed in bridging commerce and compassion, sustainability and profitability, and move from
vision to effective strategic implementation. Solving problems, making decisions, and picking
the courses of action are the most critical aspects of being in charge because it is risky and very
difficult. Bad decisions can damage a career, influence peoples’ lives, and hurt an organization’s
performance. But, where do bad decisions come from? In many cases, they can be traced back
to the way the decisions were made. Maybe the right questions were not asked. Maybe the right
alternatives were not explored or may be the data collected was wrong. Sometimes, the fault of
poor leadership decisions lies not in the decision-making process, but rather in the mind of the
decision-maker.
How does an organizational manager make the correct leadership decisions when the
unexpected occurs or the existing plans are insufficient or important organizational core
values and goals are threatened? Critical Thinking in decision-making helps the professionals
ask relevant questions, gather opinions from various groups, interpret complex problems,
and make wise decisions. The development of critical thinking skills in international
executives has never been more vital than it is today. The engagement in managerial critical
thinking is about learning to apply experience-based, team-based, and formal problemsolving
methods to situations. It is essential to develop a keen ability to overcome and
become self-aware of biases, false assumptions, myths, and faulty paradigms that can hamper
effective decision-making.
Executive
Summary
P E R S P E C T I V E S
presents emerging issues and
ideas that call for action or
rethinking by managers,
administrators, and policy
makers in organizations
KEY WORDS
Decision-making Skills
Problem-solving
Critical Thinking
International Leaders
VIKALPA • VOLUME 32 • NO 3 • JULY - SEPTEMBER 2007 1
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Evolving international management challenges like
succession planning as the members of the “baby
boomer” generation retire, managing employee
generational conflict, valuing cultural diversity, and developing
adaptive strategy have made decision-making
for international managers more perplexing and almost
overwhelming. Even with the best strategic planning,
there is a likelihood of mishandling a crisis or leadership
strategy decision. Consider the myriad of decisionmaking
challenges that the leaders in northern Nicaragua,
El Salvador, and Honduras faced related to hurricane
Felix, which flooded the area with over 15 inches
of rain. Think about the decisions that the Mayor of New
Orleans had to take when the levies broke from Hurricane
Katrina. Think of the leadership decisions that the
public managers in government and law enforcement
bodies had to take after the terrorist attacks on the train
in Spain and London. Consider the challenge of decisionmaking
that faced the President of Virginia Tech University
in the wake of the shooting massacre.
Socially, economically, politically, and technologically,
our world is transforming in complex ways that
are beyond what we could have fathomed even five
years ago. Now, more than ever, managerial decisions
have far-reaching consequences in the way that organizations
fail or succeed in bridging commerce and compassion,
and sustainability and profitability, and move
from vision to effective strategic implementation. Solving
problems, making decisions, and picking the courses
of action are the most critical aspects of being in charge
because it is risky and very difficult. Bad decisions can
damage a career, influence peoples’ lives, and hurt an
organization’s performance. So, where do bad decisions
come from? In many cases, they can be traced back to
the way the decisions were made. Maybe the right
questions were not asked. Maybe the right alternatives
were not explored or may be the data collected was
wrong. Sometimes, the fault of poor leadership decisions
lies not in the decision-making process, but rather in the
mind of the decision-maker. The way the human brain
works can harm the quality of our decisions (Phillips,
2005).
In many organizations, bad decisions often occur
by not making a decision at all in a situation that is in
need of attention. This can occur in organizations, where
responsibility, accountability, blame, and punishment
are attached to an action or decision that is not successful
while the same level of punishment and blame are usually
not levied on individuals who do not take a risk and do
not make a decision.
How does an organizational manager make the
correct leadership decisions when the unexpected occurs,
existing plans are insufficient, and important organizational
core values and goals are threatened? The
development of critical thinking skills in today’s international
executives has never been more vital. The
engagement in managerial critical thinking is about
learning to apply both experience-based, team-based,
and formal problem-solving methods to situations. It is
essential to develop a keen ability to overcome and
become self-aware of biases, false assumptions, myths,
and faulty paradigms that can hamper effective decision-
making.
CRITICAL THINKING: THE CONCEPT
The concept of using critical thinking skills is not simple.
On the surface, most people assume that the decisions
made by intelligent and educated people include critical
thinking. In the context of discussion, the activity is more
complex. The definition of critical thinking has somewhat
changed over time. The following are some examples
of attempts to define critical thinking:
• ...the ability to analyse facts; generate, and organize
ideas; defend opinions; make comparisons; draw
inferences; evaluate arguments and solve problems
(Chance,1986)
• ...involves analytical thinking for the purpose of
evaluating what is read (Hickey, 1990)
• ...a conscious and deliberate process which is used
to interpret or evaluate information and experiences
with a set of reflective attitudes and abilities that
guide thoughtful beliefs and actions (Mertes,1991)
• ...active, systematic process of understanding and
evaluating arguments. An argument provides an
assertion about the properties of some object or the
relationship between two or more objects and evidence
to support or refute the assertion. Critical
thinkers acknowledge that there is no single correct
way to understand and evaluate arguments and that
all attempts are not necessarily successful (Mayer
and Goodchild, 1990)
• . . . reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding
what to believe or do (Ennis, 1992).
The fact is that everyone has the ability to think
about an issue. Most international managers find it
extremely challenging to evaluate a written or spoken
2 DEVELOPING ADVANCED DECISION-MAKING SKILLS
2
commentary on a hot topic because both sides of the
controversy seem to have good arguments. The critical
thinker is able to distinguish high-quality, well-supported
arguments from arguments with flaws, poor data,
or weak evidence (Diestler, 2004).
To understand why using critical thinking skills is
so important, one has to have some sense of how human
beings process information. We are taught from an early
age to make sense out of information and experience by
summarizing it, or more technically, to reduce the amount
of detail through the use of concepts. The engagement
in managerial critical thinking is about learning to apply
both experience-based, team-based, and formal problem-
solving methods to situations. It is essential to
develop a keen ability to overcome and become self
aware of biases, false assumptions, myths, and faulty
paradigms that can hamper effective decision-making.
The development of critical thinking is about learning
how to overcome those biases to make better managerial
decisions and develop new activities so that they become
a part of the permanent leadership behaviour (Bazerman,
2005).
“Researchers have been studying the way our minds
function in making decisions for half a century. This
research, in the laboratory and in the field, has revealed
that we use unconscious routines to cope with the
complexity inherent in most decisions. These routines,
known as heuristics, serve us well in most situations.
In judging distance, for example, our minds frequently
rely on a heuristic that equates clarity with proximity.
The clearer an object appears, the closer we judge it to
be. The fuzzier it appears, the farther away we assume
it must be. This simple mental shortcut helps us to make
the continuous stream of distance judgments required
to navigate the world. Researchers have identified a
whole series of such flaws in the way we think in making
decisions. Some, like the heuristic for clarity, are sensory
misperceptions. Others take the form of biases. Still
others appear simply as irrational anomalies in our
thinking. What makes all these traps so dangerous is
their invisibility. Because they are hard-wired into our
thinking process, we fail to recognize them even as we
fall right into them. For executives, whose success hinges
on the many day-to-day decisions they make or approve,
the psychological traps are especially dangerous. They
can undermine everything from new-product development
to acquisition and divestiture strategy to succession
planning. While no one can rid his or her mind of
these ingrained flaws, anyone can follow the lead of
airline pilots and learn to understand the traps and
compensate for them,” (Hammond, Keeney and Raiffa,
2006).
In most companies, strategic planning is often devoid
of real time decision-making. It can sometimes be an
exercise in documenting strategies and plan actions that
have already been made, often without the benefit of the
nuances of a critical thinking decision-making process.
The progressive firms are changing their approach to the
advanced analysis and assessment of organizational
course direction to improve planning, problem-solving,
and decision-making (Mankins and Steele, 2006).
To understand the value of managerial critical
thinking processes in organizations, think about the way
that most organizations conduct strategy reviews as
formal meetings between the middle and senior level
organizational managers. While these reviews are intended
to produce a fact-based dialogue, they often
amount to a little more than a “dog and pony show.”
Senior managers come in for a few days, get a superficial
presentation, socialize with the staff, and leave. The
middle management spends an inordinate amount of
time preparing information to explain or sell to senior
manager a course of strategy. The unit hopes to escape
with few unanswered questions and an approved course
of direction. Accordingly, middle administrators attempt
to control the flow of information upward, and senior
managers are presented only with the information that
shows each department in the best perspective. The
departmental successes are show-cased; the opportunities
are emphasized; and the threats are omitted or
marginalized. This style of planning and decision-making
hinders the senior managers from engaging in any
detailed information gathering or complex questioning.
These quick overview presentations do not provide the
type of valuable information that is needed for senior
managers to help in critical thinking in problem-solving
and decision-making. The most common obstacles to
decision-making in large companies are the disagreements
among the executives over the past decisions,
current alternatives, and even the facts presented to
support strategic plans. The leading companies structure
their strategy review sessions to overcome these
problems (Mankins and Steele, 2006).
Pursuing a competitive advantage and improving
the quality of service delivery can be a time-consuming
and fruitless search through the ever-expanding moun-
VIKALPA • VOLUME 32 • NO 3 • JULY - SEPTEMBER 2007 3
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tain of leadership trends, growing sets of data, fads, and
theories. Most organizations have a timing problem with
decision-making. Even when the leaders allot sufficient
time in strategy development to address tough issues,
the timing of the process can create problems with how
decisions are made. At most enterprises, strategy-oriented
problem-solving and decision-making is a batch
process in which the managers analyse internal and
external environment factors, identify threats and opportunities,
and then define a multi-year plan based on
variables that exist at that point of time. But in the real
world, managers make strategic decisions continuously,
often motivated by an immediate need for action or
reaction. Critical thinking in leadership decision-making
is about developing the ability to cut through the
clutter of information, myths, assumptions, and buzz
words to consider a variety of variables and possible
scenarios (Spitzer and Evans, 1997).
USING CRITICAL THINKING PROCESSES
In critical thinking, professionals should create multiple
solutions to problems by constantly questioning and
challenging their strengths, and through examination of
decision-making preferences and practices. Thinking is
fuelled by questions. Questions define variables, state
factors, outline tasks, clarify issues, and express problems.
Complex questioning drives the thought beyond
what is superficial. Asking questions forces everyone
involved in the decision to express and challenge preconceived
notions and assumptions. Asking questions
forces public managers and political leaders to look at
their sources of information and consider the validity
and quality of the information. Critical thinking problem-
solving is an optimal process for arriving at wellthought-
out decisions that not only develop strong
remedies to organizational perplexities, but also create
an ability to rank and assess how well the solution meets
the overall goals and objectives. This kind of in-depth
questioning and analysis helps assure that the solution
would actually solve the problem, not just be the best
of mediocre options. Engaging in this process also creates
a mechanism of reassessment where if the solution
does meet a determined level of satisfaction, the decision-
makers re-open the process and further research
and brainstorm, until the most effective outcome of
decision is established (McAuliffe, 2005).
The theorists have hypothesized that critical thinking
is correlated with internal motivation to think. The
cognitive skills of analysis, interpretation, explanation,
evaluation, and correction of one’s own reasoning are
at the heart of critical thinking. For instance, since the
way a problem is posed can influence how one thinks
about it, one should try to reframe the question in various
ways and ask oneself how his/her thinking might change
for each version. When it comes to leadership decisions,
there is rarely such a thing as a no-brainer. Our brains
are always at work, sometimes, unfortunately, in ways
that hinder rather than help. At every stage of the decisionmaking
process, misperceptions, biases, and other tricks
of the mind can influence the actions taken (Welch,
2001).
Highly complex and important decisions are the
ones most prone to distortion because they tend to involve
assumptions, estimates, and inputs from the maximum
number of people. Even if the managers cannot eradicate
the distortions ingrained in the way their minds work,
they can build appropriate systems into our decisionmaking
processes to improve the quality of the choices
we make. It is quite possible that managers can develop
those skills to the extent of their natural abilities through
practice and guidance just like artistic, athletic, or leadership
skills. Self-reflection is a very important skill in
decision-making. This process includes the understanding
of principles and strategies, financial constraints,
and probability. Furthermore, this process is about expanding
and understanding of psychology and even
sociology in addition to learning to assess values, expectations,
and needs of employees, organizational
stakeholders, and their reaction to leadership decisions
(Welch, 2001).
Critical thinking is purposeful, self-regulatory judgment
which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation,
and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential,
conceptual, methodological, or contextual considerations
upon which that judgment is based. Critical
thinking is a vital tool of inquiry. The successful application
of these core critical skills requires that one take
into reasoned consideration the evidence, methods,
contexts, theories, and criteria which, in effect, define
specific disciplines, fields, and areas of human concern.
The process is more than just making decisions. It is also
about the ability to consistently develop better alternatives,
rank the alternatives that are developed, make
better group decisions even in contentious environments,
and sell or defend decisions successfully within any
organizational hierarchy (McAuliffe, 2005).
4 DEVELOPING ADVANCED DECISION-MAKING SKILLS
4
VARIABLES THAT HAMPER CRITICAL
THINKING SKILLS
One school of thought that hampers critical thinking is
that executive decisions are often made by looking solely
in the past, with too much emphasis on the past events,
without looking to the future and how variables might
change. Another belief that hurts the decision-making
process is when decisions are made in isolation, gathering
information, exploring alternatives, and making
a choice, without regard to anything that has gone before.
The fact is that decisions are made in the context of other
decisions. The typical metaphor used to explain this is
that of a stream. There is a stream of decisions surrounding
a given decision. Many decisions made earlier have
led to this decision and made it both possible and limited.
Many other decisions will follow from it. Another
way to describe this situation is to say that most decisions
involve a choice from a group of pre-selected
alternatives, made available to us from the universe of
alternatives by the previous decisions we have made
(Ennis, 1992).
Another problem with decision-making is that
sometimes people’s desire to be considered team players
overrides their willingness to engage in critical thinking
and thoughtful analysis; so, the group readily accepts
the first remotely plausible option. Popularly known as
“groupthink,” this mind-set is prevalent in the presence
of strong advocates, especially in new teams, whose
members are still learning the rules and may be less
willing to openly question or disagree with a decision
(Ennis, 1992).
Often leadership decision-making is based on an
elementary way of analysing the problems and making
decisions. Organizational managers can often engage in
a linear way of thinking. This thinking follows a certain
level of going from A to B to look at issues in the way
someone would think and respond to if asked to say the
alphabet. With linear thinking, leaders tend to work on
developing one solution based on the consideration of
one scenario. Problem-solving is viewed as looking at
pieces of a puzzle. Once a familiar or logical pattern is
discovered, managers work on putting the pieces together
based on the one pattern that is easily established
and understood. Most leadership decision-making never
anticipates that the factors or variables that exist today,
could change tomorrow. When assumptions are made
about an instant or a pre-selected solution, leaders do
not consider other variables, other options or the possibility
that the variables might change before the solution
can be implemented. Most leaders treat decisionmaking
as an event or a discrete choice that takes place
at a single point in time. To look at decision-making that
way is to overlook larger social and organizational
contexts, which ultimately determine the success of any
decision. Problem-solving and decision-making are not
an event. These are processes that unfold over weeks,
months, or even years. It is subject to debate, individual
agendas, organizational politics, leadership power plays,
and institutional history (Sanders, 2002).
Critical thinking and rigorous debate invariably lead
to conflicts. The good news is that the conflicts bring the
issues into focus, allowing managers to make more
informed choices. The bad news is that the wrong kind
of conflicts can derail the decision-making process altogether.
The conflicts come in two forms: cognitive and
affective. Cognitive, or substantive conflicts, relate to the
work at hand. They involve disagreements over ideas
and assumptions and differing views on the best way
to proceed. Not only are such conflicts healthy, they are
crucial to effective problem-solving and sound decisionmaking.
When people express differences openly and
question the underlying assumptions, they can uncover
the weaknesses and introduce new concepts and actions.
Affective, or interpersonal conflicts, are emotional. They
involve personal friction, rivalries, and clashing personalities,
and thus tend to diminish people’s willingness
to cooperate in a positive way to problem-solving and
decision-making. Effective critical thinkers engage in
comprehensive, flexible thinking, thus enhancing manager’s
ability to generate good alternatives, design
something new, and successfully resolve conflict. (Spitzer
and Evans, 1997). They can develop strategies to manage
and analyse information and risk perception in high
pressure situations. The managers have the ability to
identify and avoid reasoning fallacies so that they can
present sound, persuasive arguments for critically examining
the concepts of change and innovation as
ongoing processes for organizational renewal. When
carried out effectively, critical thinking skills can allow
managers to:
• develop paths to reasoned judgment when variables
in a situation are changing and evolving
• understand how to build a thought-provoking group
consensus around complex issues
• learn to encourage and ensure consideration of many
breakthrough or “out-of-the-box” ideas
VIKALPA • VOLUME 32 • NO 3 • JULY - SEPTEMBER 2007 5
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• dramatically reduce the off-focus debates and tangents
• reduce the number and duration of meetings
• discover how to foster equal participation by all
group members, including bosses and subordinates
• acquire techniques to speed up group decisionmaking,
while still developing multiple solutions.
EXECUTIVE COURSES FOR DEVELOPING
CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS
The goals of the Critical Thinking courses are to help
managers:
• become familiar with different styles of thinking
and identify their personal critical thinking preferences
• ask oneself the “big picture” questions
• learn how to use critical thinking to challenge assumptions
and expand perceptions about situations
• come to better conclusions and decisions more often.
These courses can provide practical hands-on training
for international managers and political leaders on
how to incorporate the use of critical thinking skills and
processes in leadership decision-making. By developing
these tools, leaders can enhance their ability to constructively
solve organizational programmes through the
engagement of new activities. These managerial actions
include the following:
• Never forget that decision-making is a process and
not a single event or activity.
• Overcome the notion that there is only one ‘right
solution’ to the organizational quandaries.
• Eliminate mental blocks in the forms of biases, myths,
and false assumptions.
• Stop and think before acting and making quick
decisions without the benefit of data and variable
evaluation.
• Always check to see whether you are examining all
evidences with equal rigour. Avoid the tendency to
accept confirming evidence without questioning.
• Get someone respectable to play the devil’s advocate,
to argue against the decision you are contemplating.
• Be honest with yourself about the agendas and
motives. Are you really gathering information to
help you make a smart choice, or are you just looking
for evidence confirming your preconceived
notions?
• In seeking the advice of others, do not ask leading
questions that invite confirming evidence.
• Do not stack your decision-making staff with yesmen
or yes-women.
• Focus on the organization’s goals and values before
making a major decision by asking if the ideal
outcome is in alignment with the mission and values.
• Write down all the positive and negative factors for
and against taking a particular course of action.
• Minimize the possible distortion caused by your
ability or lack of ability to clearly recall the key facts,
historical events, and variables connected to the
decision-making process. Carefully examine all your
assumptions. Get real hard data whenever possible.
• Establish priorities by asking what are the critical
factors and what is the single most important consideration.
• Look for opportunities in any decision. Each “mistake”
is a potential opportunity for the organization
to learn and grow.
• Make decisions with an understanding that the
variables and circumstances have the ability to
change.
• Change course of action if the strategy is not working.
• Do not make decisions by only looking backwards.
• Look ahead to the future in a spirit of hope and
optimism because the past is already gone.
CONCLUSIONS
Decisions can be made on blind instinct. Gut feelings
cannot always be trusted but there is an assumption that
these feelings can become more educated. The main
purpose of flight simulators, for instance, is to make
pilots experience unlikely surprises so many times that,
should one actually occur, their decision-making under
Box: Critical Thinking Courses in the US
(a) Colorado Technical University has an on-line Doctor of
Management Programme that requires four applied research
projects instead of a dissertation. The programme has
classes and a curriculum focus on developing managers
with strong Critical Thinking skills.
http://www.instituteforadvancedstudies.com/
(b) The University of MA has an on-line certificate programme
in Critical Thinking.
http://ccde.umb.edu/certificates/cct/
(c) The American Management Association has a classroom
course in Critical Thinking.
www.amanet.org
(d) Management Concepts, a professional training organization
offers a classroom course in Critical Thinking.
www.mgmtconcepts.com
6 DEVELOPING ADVANCED DECISION-MAKING SKILLS
6
pressure will be more relaxed, natural, reflexive, and
reasoned. Using critical thinking skills is about developing
a keen ability to bridge the knowledge chasm
between fact and fiction, and the blind acceptance of
viewpoints in the critical analysis of making decisions.
International managers that are critical thinkers have the
ability to respond openly to opposing perspectives and
develop a solid foundation for making choices about
what to accept and what to reject as they read, listen,
and deliberate (Browne and Keeley, 2006).
Critical thinking skills are something that can be
learned with practice and guidance by changing the
actions involved in decision-making so that they become
part of the permanent behaviour especially as international
management decisions continue to be more complex.
The managers who include individuals in teams
simply because it is the politically wise thing to do
should accept that the team members expect their inputs
to be taken seriously, whatever the ultimate decision
may be. To effectively engage in all the aspects of critical
thinking in decision-making, the managers must demonstrate
that they are indeed taking their feedback
seriously. To do otherwise may undermine their ability
to create support for an initiative and to implement it
effectively. Furthermore, managers need not sacrifice
quality in the name of commitment and cooperation. On
the contrary, listening to and selectively incorporating
the suggestions of team members can actually improve
the quality of the final decision. Leaders who are effective
critical thinkers pay careful attention to the way
issues are framed as well as to the language used during
discussions. When they facilitate decision-making meetings,
they preface contradictory remarks or questions
with phrases that have the potential to offend. They also
set ground rules about language, insisting that the team
members avoid words and behaviour that trigger defensiveness.
To facilitate critical thinking skills with problemsolving,
the managers can help the employees step back
from their pre-established positions by breaking up
natural coalitions and assigning people to tasks on some
basis other than the traditional loyalties. The managers
can shift subordinates and other managers out of the
well-grooved patterns, where vested interests are the
highest. They can, for example, ask the team members
to research and argue for a position they did not endorse
during the initial discussions. Similarly, they can assign
the team members to play functional or managerial roles
different from their own, such as asking a lower-level
employee to assume the senior manager’s strategic
perspective. Finally, the managers can ask the participants
locked in debate to revisit key facts and assumptions
and gather more information. Often, people become
so focused on the differences between opposing
positions that emotional and counterproductive conflicts
can occur that create an impasse. Asking people
to examine the underlying presumptions can defuse the
tension and set the team back on track. People quickly
recognize the areas of agreement, discover precisely how
and why they disagree, and then focus their common
values and areas of collaboration on the critical issues.
Finally, critical thinking in decision-making helps the
professionals ask relevant questions, gather opinions
from various groups, weigh evidence offered in support
of the arguments, interpret complex problems, and make
wise decisions. Making wise decisions is the key to
organizational growth, longevity, and renewal.
REFERENCES
Bazerman, Max (2005). Judgment in Managerial Decision
Making, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons.
Browne, Neal and Keeley, Stewart (2006). Asking the Right
Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking, New York: Prentice
Hall.
Chance, P (1986). Thinking in the Classroom: A Survey of
Programs, New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.
Diestler, Sherry (2004). Becoming a Critical Thinker: A User
Friendly Manual, New York: Prentice Hall.
Ennis, R (1992). “Critical thinking: What is It?” Proceedings
of the Forty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the Philosophy
of Education Society Denver, Colorado, March 27-30.
Hammond, John S; Keeney, Ralph L and Raiffa, Howard
(2006). “The Hidden Traps in Decision,”Harvard Business
Review, 84(1), 118-126.
Hickey, M (1990). “Reading and Social Studies: The Critical
Connection,” Social Education, 54(3), 175-179.
Mayer, R and Goodchild, F (1990). The Critical Thinker, New
York: Wm. C. Brown.
McAuliffe, Thomas P (2005). The 90% Solution: A Consistent
Approach to Optimal Business Decisions, Los Angles, CA:
Authorhouse.
Mertes, L (1991). “Thinking and Writing,” Middle School
Journal, 22(2), 24-25.
Mankins, Michael C and Steele, Richard (2006). “Stop
Making Plans and Start Making Decision,” Harvard
Business Review, 84(1), 76-84.
Phillips, Jan (2005). The Art of Original Thinking: The Making
of a Thought Leader, Los Angeles, CA: 9th Element Press.
VIKALPA • VOLUME 32 • NO 3 • JULY - SEPTEMBER 2007 7
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Sanders, Irene (2002). “To Fight Terror, We Can’t Think
Straight,” The Washington Post, May 5.
Spitzer, Q and Evans, R (1997). Heads You Win: How the Best
Companies Think, New York: Simon & Schuster.
Welch, David (2001). Decisions, Decisions: The Art of Effective
Decision Making, First Edition, New York: Prometheus
Books.
Asila Safi is a doctoral student in Management at Colorado
Technical University. Her research is on leadership
development in the Federal Government. She has a graduate
degree in Organizational Management from the National
Louis University. She is fluent in five languages and has
over nine years of management experience in government
and corporate America.
e-mail: asila_safi@yahoo.com
Darrell Norman Burrell is a faculty member with the
Averett University. He has published in several academic
journals. He is also a doctoral student in management at
the Colorado Technical University. He has an EdS (Post
Master’s Terminal Degree) in Higher Education
Administration from The George Washington University. He
has graduate degrees in Human Resources Management and
Organizational Management from National Louis University,
and a graduate degree in Sales and Marketing Management
from Prescott College.
e-mail: dnburrell@excite.com
8 DEVELOPING ADVANCED DECISION-MAKING SKILLS
If we live thinking of ourselves all the time, our life will
seem short, it starts with our birth and it ends when we
die! But if we live for others, meaning, we live for a notion
and a methodology, our life will seem very long! It starts
since humanity existed and it lasts until after we die.
— Syed Qutub
8
From Experience to
Experiential Learning:
Cultural Intelligence
as a Learning Capability
for Global Leader Development
KOK-YEE NG
Nanyang Technological University
LINN VAN DYNE
Michigan State University
SOON ANG
Nanyang Technological University
Although international assignments are recognized as important mechanisms for
developing global leaders in organizations, existing research has focused primarily on
leaders’ performance during international assignments, rather than on the developmental
outcomes gained from such assignments. We integrate research on experiential learning
and cultural intelligence to propose a process model that focuses on how leaders
translate their international work assignment experiences into learning outcomes critical
for global leadership development. Our model positions cultural intelligence as a
moderator that enhances the likelihood that individuals on international assignments
will actively engage in the four stages of experiential learning (experience, reflect,
conceptualize, experiment), which in turn leads to global leadership self-efficacy,
ethnorelative attitudes toward other cultures, accurate mental models of leadership
across cultures, and flexibility of leadership styles. Our model has major implications for
the selection and training of individuals, as well as organizational practices related to
international job assignments from a developmental perspective.
........................................................................................................................................................................
Effective global leaders are a vital asset for organizations
today (Van Dyne & Ang, 2006). In the
current milieu of diversity, complexities, and international
competition, having leaders who are capable
of understanding, functioning, and managing
in the global environment is a valuable, rare,
and inimitable resource that can offer firms a competitive
advantage (Ang & Inkpen, 2008; Barney,
1992). It is, therefore, of little surprise that training
and development of global leader competencies is
one of the top-five organizational practices that
significantly influences effectiveness of multinational
companies (Stroh & Caligiuri, 1998).
Organizational interventions for enhancing
global leadership effectiveness range from didactic
programs to intensive cultural experiences
(Caligiuri, 2006). Didactic programs typically take
the form of cross-cultural training or diversity
training that is provided in-house, or conducted
off-site by consulting firms or academic institutions.
These courses aim to equip individuals with
specific knowledge, skills, abilities, and other
characteristics (KSAOs) such as greater awareness
of cross-cultural differences; knowledge of appropriate
behaviors when working with people from
different cultures; specific business knowledge,
such as international finance and project management;
and the ability to converse in a different
language.
Intensive cultural experiences, on the other
 Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2009, Vol. 8, No. 4, 511–526.
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511
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hand, aim to develop individuals more holistically
by exposing them to the challenges of living and
working in a foreign environment (Leung, Maddux,
Galinsky, & Chiu, 2008). Short- and long-term international
assignments are examples of such developmental
programs increasingly adopted by organizations
to nurture their global leaders, with
many firms now requiring that high-potential leaders
have at least one overseas assignment in their
careers (Hall, Zhu, & Yan, 2001).
The growing emphasis on experiential approaches
to global leader development may be
attributed to the importance accrued to international
experience. For example, research demonstrates
that firms led by CEOs with international
experience perform better financially (Carpenter,
Sanders, Gregersen, 2001; Daily, Certo, & Dalton,
2000; Sambharya, 1996). In addition, global leaders
themselves find international assignments beneficial
for their personal and professional development.
In a survey conducted by Gregersen, Morrison,
and Black (1998), 80% of respondents reported
that living and working abroad was the most powerful
experience in developing their global leadership
capabilities.
Despite the crucial role that international assignments
play in global leadership development,
most models and empirical research on international
assignments have adopted a performance
perspective, focusing on performance and adjustment
of expatriates (e.g., see review and metaanalysis
by Bhaskar-Shrinivas, Harrison, Shaffer,
& Luk, 2005). While this stream of research offers
important selection and training implications to
ensure that international operations are managed
effectively, it does not directly address the developmental
objectives and benefits of international
assignments. Thus, we lack research and conceptual
models on how individuals learn to become
better global leaders based on their international
work experiences. We also lack conceptual frameworks
that specify what types of individual are
most likely to learn and benefit the most from international
assignments.
Responding to this gap, we address two questions
here: (1) How do global leaders learn from
their international assignments to become better
global leaders? (2) What attributes of global leaders
enhance their learning while on international
work assignments? Thus, in contrast to prior research
that emphasizes performance and adjustment
outcomes, we adopt a developmental perspective
and focus on factors that affect global
leader learning outcomes.
Adopting a developmental perspective requires
several shifts in assumptions compared to the traditional
performance perspective. A major and obvious
difference is the emphasis on learning effectiveness,
rather than on work effectiveness. This
shift acknowledges that failures during international
assignments can present excellent learning
opportunities that help individuals hone their
global leadership skills (Hall et al., 2001), and contrasts
starkly with the traditional view that failures
are undesirable outcomes to be avoided. The focus
on learning outcomes also moves beyond expatriate
research that has commonly focused on ways
to staff and manage those in international positions,
such as predeparture cross-cultural training
(Morris & Robie, 2001), role clarity, and relational
skills (Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al., 2005). Finally,
switching from an emphasis on performance to a
developmental perspective requires a fundamentally
different theoretical basis. Thus, we draw on
theories of adult learning to develop a model of
processes that affect learning outcomes of global
leaders.
We integrate two streams of research to inform
our research questions: First, we adopt Kolb’s
(1984) experiential learning theory (ELT) to explicate
the processes that enable leaders to learn
and develop their global leadership capabilities
through their international work assignments. Second,
we consider cultural intelligence (CQ; Ang &
Van Dyne, 2008; Earley & Ang, 2003), defined as an
individual’s capability to function effectively in
culturally diverse contexts, as a key individual
attribute that influences the extent to which individuals
actively engage in experiential learning
during their international work assignments.
In the remaining sections, we elaborate on our
theoretical model (see Figure 1). We begin with a
brief review of ELT (Kolb, 1984) and its application
to global leadership development. We then describe
the 4-factor conceptualization of CQ and
discuss its role in enhancing experiential learning
processes and learning outcomes during international
assignments. We conclude with a discussion
of future research directions and organizational
implications aimed at enhancing learning
outcomes of global leaders in international work
assignments.
THEORY DEVELOPMENT
Experiential Learning Theory (ELT)
ELT is an adult learning theory that highlights the
critical role experience plays in affecting learning
and change. Kolb’s (1984) formulation of ELT draws
on the work of prominent educational and organizational
scholars including John Dewey, Kurt
512 Academy of Management Learning & Education December
Lewin, and Jean Piaget, who share the common
view that learning involves integrating experience
with concepts and linking observations to actions
(see especially Dewey, 1938).
We adopt the ELT framework as the basis of our
process model for developing global leaders
through international assignments for several reasons.
First, ELT emphasizes learning as a process
(Kolb, 1984), unlike traditional learning theories
that focus on learning as behavioral or cognitive
outcomes. This process-oriented approach is consistent
with our research question to understand
the intervening mechanisms that translate international
work assignment experiences into learning
outcomes. Second, ELT views learning as a
holistic process of adapting to the world that requires
the integrated functioning of the total person,
which includes thinking, feeling, perceiving,
and behaving, as well as interactions between the
person and the environment (Kolb, 1984). The holistic
nature of ELT fits well with the complexity of
international assignments, given that leaders are
exposed to, and required to manage a multitude of
demands and cues from their new environment.
Third, ELT views learning as a continuous process
where new knowledge, changing existing ideas
and perspectives, relearning, and integrating old
and new ideas are important aspects of learning
(Kolb, 1984). This emphasis on a continuous and
dynamic cycle of learning is particularly crucial
for global leaders given the uncertainties and complexities
of culturally diverse business settings.
Kolb’s (1984) 4-stage learning cycle comprises
two fundamental processes that enable learning
from experience: (1) grasping the experience, and
(2) transforming the experience. The four learning
stages are based on two dialectically related
modes of grasping experience: concrete experience
versus abstract conceptualization, and two
dialectically related modes of transforming experience:
reflective observation versus active experimentation.
Concrete experience and abstract conceptualization
are different ways of grasping the
experience. Concrete experience focuses on tangible
elements of the immediate experience, while
abstract conceptualization relies on conceptual interpretation
and symbolic representation of the experience.
In a similar way, reflective observation
and active experimentation are two different ways
of acting upon the experience. Reflective observation
relies on internal processing, while active experimentation
emphasizes actual manipulation of
the external world.
In essence, Kolb’s ELT model prescribes a process
of learning where the learner should undergo
four bases—experiencing, reflecting, thinking,
and acting—in order to transform an experience
effectively into learning (Kolb & Kolb, 2005). Having
(grasping) an experience without doing anything
with it (transforming) is not sufficient. Likewise,
transformation cannot occur without an experience
that can be acted upon. Hence, the model argues
that tangible episodes or events (concrete experiences)
are the basis for descriptive processing (reflective
observations), which are then assimilated
and distilled into conceptual interpretations (abstract
conceptualization), which then become the
basis for action (active experimentation). This
fourth step (testing ideas in the real world) generates
new experiences for the learner and triggers
another cycle of learning.
To date, ELT has received widespread attention
in the management development literature (Kayes,
2002; Kayes, Kayes, & Yamazaki, 2005a, b; Kolb &
Kolb, 2005; Yamazaki & Kayes, 2004). Much of this
research (e.g., Cassidy, 2004; Furnham, Jackson, &
Miller, 1999; Mainemelis, Boyatzis, & Kolb, 2002;
Yamazaki & Kayes, 2007) describes preferred learning
styles based on Kolb’s (1999a, b) Learning Style
Inventory. Acknowledging the importance of this
research and going beyond it, we adopt a prescriptive
view of ELT and suggest that individuals need
to experience all four stages of learning to gain
maximum developmental benefits from international
assignments (cf. Mainemelis et al., 2002).
Thus, we conceptualize ELT as a process of learning
involving conscious behaviors that effective
learners display in order to translate experience
into learning outcomes that, in turn, should enhance
their global leadership effectiveness (cf.
Cassidy, 2004).
This approach should offer important insights
into why individuals do not learn equally from
their international experiences (Leslie & Van Velsor,
1996; Spreitzer, McCall, & Mahoney, 1997; Van
Velsor, Moxley, & Bunker, 2004). Although researchers
have considered an assortment of individual
differences that affect ability to learn from international
assignments, including cognitive abilities,
self-esteem, personality traits, such as openness
and conscientiousness, and competencies, such as
seeking and using feedback (Spreitzer et al., 1997;
Van Velsor et al., 2004; Kayes et al., 2005b), there is
no systematic framework to explain previous inconsistent
results where some people seem to
learn more than others from international work
assignment experiences. Responding to this gap,
we propose that effective learning varies across
individuals because only some individuals engage
in the entire experiential learning cycle
when exposed to cultural experiences during their
international assignments. Thus, the process of ex-
2009 Ng, Van Dyne, and Ang 513
periential learning, as explicated by ELT, provides
a theoretical basis for examining individual attributes
that affect the extent of learning and leadership
development during international assignments.
We therefore build on and extend recent
research that has examined the competencies necessary
for experiential learning (Kayes et al.,
2005b; Yamazaki & Kayes, 2004).
Specifically, we propose that CQ is an important
set of learning capabilities that enhances the extent
to which individuals translate their international
work experiences into learning outcomes
through the experiential learning processes of experiencing,
reflecting, observing, and experimenting.
This is consistent with Kayes et al.’s (2005a)
thesis that individuals must have different abilities
to manage each of the four stages in ELT. In
sum, we aim to complement existing research on
generic learning styles (e.g., Cassidy, 2004; Furnham
et al., 1999; Kolb & Kolb, 2005; Mainemelis et
al., 2002), and given the international context of
our research questions on global leadership development,
we focus on CQ as a specific set of
learning capabilities. Below, we summarize Earley
and Ang’s (2003) conceptualization of CQ. We
then present propositions for relationships between
international work assignment experiences,
CQ, experiential learning processes, and
learning outcomes.
Cultural Intelligence and Experiential Learning
Cultural intelligence (CQ), defined as an individual’s
capabilities to function and manage effectively
in culturally diverse settings (Earley & Ang,
2003), is an important individual attribute given
today’s diversified workplace. The conceptualization
of CQ is based on Sternberg and Detterman’s
(1986) framework of multiple intelligences, which
integrates different perspectives of intelligence to
propose four complementary ways of conceptualizing
individual-level intelligence: (a) metacognitive
intelligence refers to awareness and control of
cognitions used to acquire and understand information;
(b) cognitive intelligence refers to knowledge
and knowledge structures; (c) motivational
intelligence acknowledges that most cognition is
motivated and thus focuses on the magnitude
and direction of energy as a locus of intelligence;
and (d) behavioral intelligence focuses on individual
capabilities at the action level (behavior).
By expanding the scope of intelligence to include
abilities related to self-regulation and the display
of overt behaviors (Gardner, 1993), Sternberg
and Detterman (1986) offer a more comprehensive
theory of intelligence that goes beyond
cognitive abilities such as linguistic or logicalmathematical
intelligence.
Based on Sternberg and Detterman’s (1986)
model, Earley and Ang (2003) conceptualized CQ
as a multidimensional construct with mental
(metacognitive and cognitive), motivational, and
behavioral components. Hence, unlike previously
fragmented research on intercultural competencies
(Gelfand, Imai, & Fehr, 2008; Spitzberg, 1989),
CQ offers a theoretical and parsimonious framework
that comprises four capabilities. Metacognitive
CQ is the capability for consciousness and
awareness during intercultural interactions. It reflects
mental capabilities to acquire and understand
culturally diverse situations and includes
knowledge of and control over individual thought
processes (Flavell, 1979) relating to culture. Relevant
capabilities include planning, monitoring,
and revising mental models. Those with high
metacognitive CQ are consciously mindful of cultural
preferences and norms—before and during
interactions. They question cultural assumptions
and adjust mental models during and after experiences
(Nelson, 1996).
While metacognitive CQ focuses on higher order
cognitive processes, cognitive CQ focuses on
knowledge of norms, practices, and conventions in
different cultural settings acquired from education
and personal experiences. This includes knowledge
of economic, legal, and social systems of
different cultures (Triandis, 1994). Individuals with
high cognitive CQ are able to anticipate and understand
similarities and differences across cultural
situations. As a result, they are more likely to
have accurate expectations and less likely to make
inaccurate interpretations of cultural interactions
(e.g., Triandis, 1995).
In addition to mental capabilities that foster understanding
of other cultures, CQ also includes the
motivational capability to cope with ambiguous
and unfamiliar settings. Motivational CQ is the
capability to direct attention and energy toward
learning about and functioning in situations characterized
by cultural differences. It is based on the
expectancy-value theory of motivation (Eccles &
Wigfield, 2002) and includes intrinsic motivation
(Deci & Ryan, 1985) and self-efficacy (Bandura,
1997). Those with high motivational CQ have intrinsic
satisfaction and are confident about their
ability to function in culturally diverse settings.
The fourth aspect of CQ recognizes that cultural
understanding (mental) and interest (motivational)
must be complemented with behavioral flexibility
to exhibit appropriate verbal and nonverbal actions,
based on cultural values of a specific setting
(Hall, 1959). Thus, behavioral CQ is the capability
514 Academy of Management Learning & Education December
to exhibit situationally appropriate behaviors from
a broad repertoire of verbal and nonverbal behaviors,
such as being able to exhibit culturally appropriate
words, tones, gestures, and facial expressions
(Gudykunst, Ting-Toomey, & Chua, 1988).
Although a relatively new construct, CQ research
has extended the conceptualization and
theoretical grounding of CQ (Ang & Van Dyne,
2008; Ng & Earley, 2006; Triandis, 2006) to examine
relationships with cultural adaptation and performance
(Ang, Van Dyne, Koh, Ng, Templer, Tay, &
Chandrasekar, 2007), expatriate effectiveness
(Kim, Kirkman, & Chen, 2008; Shaffer & Miller, 2008;
Templer, Tay, & Chandrasekar, 2006), personality
(Ang, Van Dyne, & Koh, 2006; Oolders, Chernyshenko,
& Stark, 2008), intercultural training (Earley &
Peterson, 2004; Harris & Lievens, 2005), and multicultural
teams (e.g., Earley & Mosakowski, 2004;
Janssens & Brett, 2006; Rockstuhl & Ng, 2008).
Going beyond existing research on CQ that
has theorized and demonstrated the importance
of CQ for performance in cross-cultural contexts,
we focus here on CQ as a set of learning capabilities
that are important for global leaders.
Specifically, we consider how the four CQ dimensions
enhance the likelihood that individuals
will be actively engaged in the four stages of
experiential learning—concrete experience, reflective
observation, abstract conceptualization,
and active experimentation—during international
work assignments.
Concrete Experience
Individuals differ in how active they are or in how
much they enjoy learning from concrete experiences.
Kolb (1984) argues that individuals with an
orientation toward concrete experience are open to
new experiences, emphasize feeling rather than
thinking, and function well in unstructured situations.
In the context of international assignments, we
propose that two CQ dimensions—motivational CQ
and behavioral CQ—will affect the amount and
quality of concrete experiences leaders seek during
international assignments.
Self-efficacy research (Bandura, 1997) suggests
that individuals who are more confident of their
ability to complete a particular task are more
likely to initiate effort, persist in their efforts, and
perform better. Since intercultural interactions are
typically stressful because of unfamiliar cultural
norms and cues (Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985;
Oberg, 1960; Shaffer, Harrison, Gregersen, Black, &
Ferzandi, 2006), we suggest those with high motivational
CQ, characterized by greater interest and
self-efficacy, will actively seek cross-cultural experiences
during their international assignments.
This is consistent with Yamazaki and Kayes’ (2004)
point that valuing people of different cultures is an
important learning skill for engaging in concrete
experiences. Conversely, those with little interest
or confidence will minimize their degree of cultural
involvement, thus restricting the amount and quality
of concrete cross-cultural experiences they
could learn from. Thus, our first proposition predicts
that the relationship between international
experience and concrete experiences will be stronger
for those with higher motivational CQ.
Proposition 1: Motivational CQ enhances the
likelihood that individuals will
seek concrete cross-cultural experiences
during their international
job assignments.
Next, we propose that those with high behavioral
CQ—the capability to exhibit appropriate
verbal and nonverbal actions in culturally diverse
situations—will also seek and engage in more
cross-cultural experiences during international assignments.
Gaining concrete experiences requires
people to engage with the environment and typically
involves interpersonal interactions. Since
cultures differ in their norms for appropriate behaviors
(Hall, 1959; Triandis, 1994), the capability of
displaying a flexible range of behaviors is critical to
creating positive impressions and developing meaningful
intercultural relationships (Bhaskar-Shrinivas
et al., 2005; Gudykunst & Kim, 1984). Building relationships
with locals, in turn, creates more opportunities
for cross-cultural contact (Kayes et al., 2005b;
Yamazaki & Kayes, 2004). Accordingly, we predict
that the relationship between international experience
and concrete experiences will be stronger for
those with higher behavioral CQ.
Proposition 2: Behavioral CQ enhances the likelihood
that individuals will seek
concrete cross-cultural experiences
during their international
job assignments.
We surmise that cognitive CQ and metacognitive
CQ are unlikely to be related to concrete experiences,
given that these two mental CQ capabilities
emphasize knowledge and analytical
processes involved in reasoning, rather than actions.
Cognitive CQ and metacognitive CQ, however,
are critically important for the next two
stages of the experiential learning cycle, as described
below.
Reflective Observation
Reflective observation occurs when people think
about experiences and reflect critically on their
2009 Ng, Van Dyne, and Ang 515
assumptions and beliefs. This is an important process
because it helps people to describe the situation
objectively and develop an understanding of
why things happen (Kolb & Kolb, 2005). It also allows
them to consider different perspectives or
views of the situation.
We propose that cognitive CQ and metacognitive
CQ enhance reflective observation during international
assignments. Individuals with high
cognitive CQ possess elaborate cultural schemas.
Schemas are mental representations of patterns of
social interaction that are characteristic of particular
cultural groups (Triandis, Marin, Lisansky, &
Betancourt, 1984), and are important because they
enhance information processing (Taylor & Crocker,
1981) and enable more accurate identification and
understanding of cultural issues. Research has
shown that area studies training aimed at increasing
cultural knowledge enhanced accuracy
of interpreting social behaviors across cultures
because trained participants were less likely to
apply their own cultural assumptions to other
cultures (Bird, Heinbuch, Dunbar, & McNulty,
1993). Similarly, Ang and colleagues (2007) demonstrated
that cognitive CQ enhanced accuracy
of judgment and decision making about crosscultural
interactions.
We argue that because individuals with high
cognitive CQ have greater understanding of differences
and similarities across cultural systems,
they are more aware of what cues they should look
for. They are also less likely to make negative
evaluations of cultural norms and behaviors,
which allows them to be more objective and accurate
in their observations of cross-cultural experiences
(Osland & Bird, 2000). Therefore, we propose
that the relationship between international experience
and reflective observation will be stronger
for those with higher cognitive CQ.
Proposition 3: Cognitive CQ enhances the likelihood
that individuals will reflect on
their cross-cultural experiences during
their international assignments.
We also propose that metacognitive CQ—thinking
about thought processes related to crosscultural
experiences—will facilitate reflective observation
during international assignments. Those
with high metacognitive CQ monitor and think
about their own assumptions, beliefs, and emotions
as well as the way they process environmental
and behavioral cues provided by others. They
actively process their cognitive observations, create
new categories in their memory storage, and
consider multiple perspectives in making sense of
their experiences (Flavell, 1979). Thus, we predict
the following:
Proposition 4: Metacognitive CQ enhances the
likelihood that individuals will reflect
on their cross-cultural experiences
during their international
assignments.
Since reflective observation emphasizes perceptual
and cognitive capabilities, we do not
expect motivational CQ or behavioral CQ, which
deal with the “heart” and the “body” of the
learner, respectively (Earley, Ang, & Tan, 2006), to
be of direct relevance to this stage of experiential
learning.
Abstract Conceptualization
Abstract conceptualization, the third stage of experiential
learning, emphasizes the importance of
building general theories using scientific, as opposed
to intuitive, approaches. This stage requires
learners to distill their reflections into more general
concepts that can guide their future actions,
and emphasizes thinking, rather than feeling
(Kolb, 1984).
Similar to reflective observation, we propose
that cognitive CQ and metacognitive CQ will
facilitate abstract conceptualization during international
assignments. Research in cognitive psychology
has shown that experts conceptualize
problems more efficiently and effectively because
they have more organized knowledge structures
with stronger linkages among domain-related concepts.
In contrast, novices are less efficient because
their knowledge representations tend to be
based on salient surface elements (Chase & Simon,
1973; Chi, Glaser, & Rees, 1982). In addition,
novices are often less effective in their knowledge
acquisition because their lack of pre-organized
schemas hinders efficient classification of knowledge
(Kalyuga, Ayres, Chandler, & Sweller, 2003).
Therefore, we propose that individuals with
higher cognitive CQ will be more accurate and
effective in developing general ideas and conceptual
interpretations of culture based on their international
assignments. This is because they have
more organized and elaborated knowledge structures
that facilitate their information processing as
well as identification of relevant principles. Conversely,
those with low cognitive CQ are less able
to integrate their insights and reflections into coherent
knowledge structures about culture, thus
impeding the formation of higher order concepts
and theories. Accordingly, we propose that the relationship
between international experience and
abstract conceptualization will be stronger for
those with higher cognitive CQ.
Proposition 5: Cognitive CQ enhances the likeli-
516 Academy of Management Learning & Education December
hood that individuals will detect
patterns and develop conceptual
generalizations of cross-cultural experiences
during their international
assignments.
Metacognitive CQ should also enhance abstract
conceptualization during international assignments
because many cross-cultural situations do
not fit typical norms or tendencies, even when expectations
are based on rigorous research. Cultural
paradoxes—situations or interactions that
involve contradictory norms or behaviors—are
common encounters for expatriates in all cultures
(Osland & Bird, 2000). In fact, Osland and Osland
(2006) reported that expatriates who are more involved
in the host culture are more likely to be
aware of paradoxes.
Thus, having the metacognitive CQ capability of
thinking about thinking facilitates abstract conceptualization,
particularly when faced with cultural
paradoxes. Considering personal assumptions
and being open to disconfirming experiences
is a form of higher order reasoning that allows
individuals to analyze new cross-cultural experiences
without being biased or constrained by past
experiences or expectations (Earley & Ang, 2003).
Those with high metacognitive CQ have analogical
reasoning capabilities that enable them to
translate their insights from a particular experience
into more general concepts and interpretations
that can be applied to other cultural contexts.
Thus, we propose that the relationship between
international ex