All of you BSers out there gotta thank one of your peers for this one. A former BSer left a comment on a blahg post recently talking about a study they’d heard of out of INSEAD that showed that GMAT scores were correlated with post-MBA salaries. That was interesting enough that we went to look for it – but we couldn’t find it. Instead, we ended up finding this:
The authors found that one’s attitude in a multicultural environment and the extent to which they engaged with other cultures determined their degree of “integrative complexity”:
[I]ntegrative complexity refers to the willingness and capacity to acknowledge and integrate competing perspectives on the same issue.
And this, the authors claim, predicts future career success. Essentially, the better you are at incorporating others’ viewpoints into your own thought processes, and think things through from different perspectives, the more mentally agile you are – and the more likely you’ll be able to achieve greater success in the professional world as a result. The authors say that those who actively engage in these multicultural environments are better able to exhibit this integrative complexity.
They make it clear that it’s not just being in a new culture, it’s about being active./em>
Now granted, one could argue that that’s a self-serving study for a school like INSEAD, given how their international student experience is such a core component of their offering. EssaySnark is not in a position to critique the academics who put it together; we didn’t study the study and have no background that would allow us to evaluate the way it was put together. We’re just pointing out the obvious, with a reminder to always take into account the source and think of possible biases when you look at outcomes. Again, we’re not trying to cast doubt on it at all, but it did seem worth mentioning, as a little side note.
Also, because we didn’t do a fine-toothed comb review of the study, we don’t know if the results are applicable at all for, say, American students attending an American bschool. Even though most top MBA programs in the States are quick to tout their ~35% international student body, in our experience, there is a lot of segregation among different nationalities in any bschool class. It’s not intentional; it’s just that people tend to flock to those with whom they’re most comfortable. It’s one reason why many of the business schools construct your study group for you. This is of course in addition to the section that they assign you to. The study group is an intentional mix of students based on differing demographics, professional backgrounds, and everything else that they track about you from the application itself.
So, you can expect some degree of international exposure regardless of what school you attend in what geography. However, we cannot extrapolate the findings of this study to most American bschools. There’s really only a few top MBA programs that have this same level of truly internationalism among their students. INSEAD is one, and LBS is another. A few of the schools in Spain may have something semi-comparable.
Perhaps it’s possible that there are Americans at U.S. schools who are sufficiently motivated to engage with their international peers that they have comparable experiences to what were observed in the INSEAD students in that sample. We’re betting, though, that most Americans attending American bschools are not thinking about culture much at all. When you’re at home, you’re not aware of anything about how the world is different or unique based on your specific perspective. You forget those things. While it may be possible that American students at American schools could make a point of seeking out engagement with students from other cultures, the Americans will still be steeped in the American culture, so any positive “integrative” effects seem like they would be hard to come by.
It’s also important to recognize the differentiation that the researchers make. They’re not saying that simply attending a school in a new culture will bring these benefits. They’re saying that it’s the individual student’s psychological orientation to the culture and how they interact with their multicultural peers that dictate this type of mental development.
Thanks again to the former BSer who helped us to stumble across this interesting study!
And another semi-related addendum: Here’s an insightful essay about the study-abroad experience from a position of privilege