#022 Developing Human Resources Who Can Act Flexibly Amid Diversity
Professor Hirohisa Nagai, Faculty of Business Sciences
In modern society, globalization is advancing and the activities of corporations and other organizations are expanding in a transnational fashion. What is needed under such conditions are human resources capable of working as leaders overseas. Through empirical research based on theories of organizational behavior, Prof. Nagai is defining the qualities of global leaders, and developing and implementing human resources development programs for effectively instilling such leadership qualities.
■ Global leaders as specialists When a company expands overseas, it is natural to think that people with a track record as leaders in their home country will direct activities in the new foreign base of operations. However, it is not unusual for previous common practice and custom to lose validity the moment they leave the country. When that happens, the key is how they make the required decisions and respond accordingly. Even in Japan, it is increasingly common for the top management of an organization to be appointed from outside. This attests to the fact that companies need top leadership with qualities not found in managers developed through periodic personnel changes and the seniority system within the company. Global leaders are specialists, and special programs are needed to develop them.
■ Developing a scientific understanding of leadership The greatest difference between Japan and countries overseas is diversity. A leader must manage an organization made up of people with different cultures, customs, and mindsets, ascertain their respective capabilities, and use the right people in the right places. Psychological fortitude is also needed to flexibly respond to unexpected troubles, and advance toward goals. This is quite different from the conventional, uniform image of the typical Japanese elite. This perspective on human resources has been derived from scientific, empirical research. The results of a survey of people already highly regarded as global leaders reveal a certain commonality in competencies useful for solving the problems one faces in a cross-cultural environment. These competencies can be summarized across four categories: S (Search), P (Plan), D (Do), and L (Learn). To effectively use these, metacognition is also essential--that is, the ability to objectively recognize the situation one is in and the available actions. Outstanding leaders unconsciously put this into practice, and while broadening their experience, gain the ability to respond to diversity and change, and acquire a stance of solving problems in a searching, self-directed manner.
■ Methods of developing global leaders SPDL cycle and metacognition competencies are said to be half inborn qualities, and half dependent on the environment. Therefore, the key to developing global leaders is to routinely place prospective leaders in a global environment, provide them with extensive practical training, and have them consciously instill these competencies. In Japan, the institutions which offer such programs are graduate schools and business schools. The MBA Program in International Business established in the Graduate School of Business Sciences at the University of Tsukuba is one such program. About one-third of the students and the majority of instructors are non-Japanese, and classes are conducted in English. A global sensibility is fostered through short-term study abroad at affiliated schools, as well as visits to Silicon Valley firms and sites of interest.
■ Recommendation of early educationHowever, the fact that some first discover the necessity of such education as adults seems to reveal some issues in school education. It is true that today's school education does not include a curriculum for learning about diversity and global sensibility. Thus, Prof. Nagai has in recent years been devoted to developing a "Global Leaders Program" for high school students. In these courses, students first learn techniques for writing academic reports and making presentations in English through collaboration with universities in North America and Asia. They then study at a university campus overseas, before giving a presentation in English about their achievements. Students who start with shaky English in discussions grow to a level at which they can confidently make presentations after they come home.
■ Evaluation of originality
Even if this type of program is impossible for all high school students, an environment should be put in place in which students with natural abilities and aspirations can access such opportunities. International schools will serve as a reference point here. International schools were originally schools for Japanese children returning from abroad and children of non-Japanese temporarily posted in Japan. In these schools, more than just giving the correct answer, originality--namely, a firm proposal of one's own ideas--is highly evaluated. The system values each person's individuality; in other words, diversity. What comes into question here are educational methods. As a first step, students' must not be evaluated only on correct answers; they should also be appropriately evaluated on their varying individualities. Managing classrooms rich in diversity will also be a requirement, and thus there is a need for new programs in teacher training. One such approach promoted by Prof. Nagai is implementation of a cycle model in which class plans using English are prepared for Japanese high schools through collaboration with overseas universities, after which those classes are actually held as overseas training programs for the students. In today's society, employment is more fluid, and life paths involving changing jobs and starting businesses have become more acceptable. What lies ahead is a world rich in diversity and change, one in which the development of global leaders will become even more important.
■ Global Leaders Program The University of Tsukuba Education Bureau of the Laboratory Schools performs management tasks as the administrative authority for 123 designated schools and 56 associate schools throughout Japan in the SGH (Super Global High School) program of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The bureau is also engaged in R&D and implementation of the Global Leaders Program incorporating overseas training for junior high and high school students. Previous programs include the Tsukuba-UBC (University of British Columbia, Canada) Global Leaders Program, and the Tsukuba-HKU (Hong Kong University) Global Leaders Program and Junior Global Leaders Program. A new Tsukuba-UH (University of Hawaii) program will be launched this summer.
Article by Science Communicator at the Office of Public Relations