Journal of International Business Studies (2006) 37, 525–543
& 2006 Academy of International Business All rights reserved 0047-2506 $30.00 www.jibs.net
Cross-cultural competence in international
business: toward a definition and a model
James P. Johnson1,
Tomasz Lenartowicz2 and
Crummer Graduate School of Business, Rollins
College, Winter Park, USA; 2Deparment of
Management, International Business and
Entrepreneurship, College of Business, Florida
Atlantic University, Boca Raton, USA; 3LBJ School
of Public Affairs, The University of Texas, Austin,
Dr James P. Johnson, Crummer Graduate
School of Business, Rollins College, Office
number 204, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA.
Tel: þ 1 407 646 2486;
Fax: þ 1 407 646 1550;
Many international business failures have been ascribed to a lack of crosscultural competence (CC) on the part of business practitioners. However, the international business literature appears to lack an adequate conceptualization and definition of the term ‘CC’, focusing instead on the knowledge, skills and attributes that appear to be its antecedents. In this conceptual study, we propose a definition of CC as it applies to international business and develop a model for understanding how CC is nurtured in individuals, linking our definition to the concept of cultural intelligence. We discuss the components of the model and suggest that there are environmental and contextual impediments to the effective application of the requisite skills, knowledge and attributes that have been identified as necessary for CC, resulting in a gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’. We conclude by discussing the implications of the model for practitioners, and by suggesting appropriate directions for further research.
Journal of International Business Studies (2006) 37, 525–543. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400205
Keywords: cross-cultural competence; cultural intelligence; expatriates
Received: 5 August 2004
Revised: 11 October 2005
Accepted: 17 November 2005
Online publication date: 11 May 2006
The pace of globalization has increased significantly since 1989, with the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the creation of a single Europe, the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO). More recently, China’s accession to the WTO, renewed interest in expanding NAFTA to central and south America, a single European currency, the expansion of the European Union to 25 member states, and the emergence of the United States from an economic recession have all given added impetus to flows of global trade and investment. Increased global activity has led firms around the world – often in collaboration with partners – to seek new markets for their products, new sources of raw materials, parts and components, and new, more cost-effective locations for manufacturing and assembly operations. Some of these foreign ventures succeed, but many do not, and the inability of firms and their managers to adjust to the demands of the international business environment has been advanced as a primary cause of international business failures (Tung, 1982; Doremus et al., 1998; Ricks, 1999; Apud et al., 2003). Two general themes emerge from the literature: expatriate failure, and a broader inability by headquarters managers to appreciate the cultural challenges of doing business overseas.
Cross-cultural competence in international business
James P Johnson et al
Since Tung’s (1982) seminal study of the failure of
expatriates in overseas assignments, which reported
a high proportion of US managers returning home
early from an overseas assignment compared with
managers from Europe and Japan, the international
business literature has continued to investigate the
phenomenon of expatriate failure. Although it has
been suggested that the earlier...
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