Monday, May 11, 2015


I ran into an old colleague doing an international assignment last week.  We caught up on old times and acquaintances.  It was fantastic.

While I have traveled the globe for the last 20 years, this guy has lived it.  Permanent assignments in over five countries. You would think one could not get more cultural awareness and virtual leadership practice than that! But then we started an interesting debate.  I subscribe to the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours of “ice time” philosophy (Outliers 2008) in that just because a person is a recreational hockey player for 15 years does not necessarily mean they accumulated 10,000 of ice time.   In this debate, is it possible that a person could live internationally and not have fully experienced, visited, read, watched the movies and learned everything about places they live in?  Could it be that someone could be working “geographically dispersed” but not have used the full set of virtual tools, understand the context of distance, read about virtual constraints and implemented strategies to overcome them, and devised methods for building trust among dispersed teammates?

It was an interesting discussion with my friend asking me if a can sum up the difference in one word.  I said yes – to truly get the 10,000 hours a person would need a veracious “curiosity.”  That is what I seek when recruiting people for international assignments. Technical domain expertise is only one of the three pillars to international assignment success. Virtual Leadership and Cultural Awareness/Language being the others.
Have you considered the difference between 10 years’ experience and 10,000 experiences when you talk to people?  Can you tell the difference of those that have gone out and experienced the world?


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