New research from the University of Exeter Business School has revealed that corporate managers who’re widely exposed to more than one culture during their formative years (up until 23 years of age) are more likely to be confident taking difficult and risky (business) decisions. This is probably just as well because, apparently, there are 40 per cent more first-generation migrants living in the world today than in 1990 – so the global population is becoming more diverse.


The study looked at over 2,000 acquisition decisions taken by board members at 561 UK listed companies and found that managers who live or study in cultures other than their own, more readily take difficult strategic decisions such as deciding to acquire foreign companies. The researchers found that the more international the makeup of a board, the more likely the company is to have business activities abroad.


According to the research’s co-author, Grzegorz Trojanowski, Associate Professor in Finance at the University of Exeter Business School: “The UK is one of the most diverse countries on earth and this cultural mix has a positive impact on the business focus of British firms, which tends to be disproportionately international.”


Key attributes of managers exposed to multiple cultures when young include being:

  • Confident making challenging and risky business decisions
  • Confident their decisions in foreign cultures will be successful
  • Better at understanding and influencing people from diverse cultures
  • Able to understand subtle differences in business practices and communication styles across cultures
  • Better at naturally ‘bridging’ or communicating with people from different cultures


Comment: The co-author of the research is Grzegorz Trojanowski, Associate Professor in Finance at the University of Exeter Business School. His fellow co-author is Dorota Piaskowska, a Lecturer in Management at University College Dublin. These aren’t Anglo-Saxon or even Celtic names are they? I wonder if they might have been exposed to more than one culture?


While this research might, thus, be a post-hoc rationalisation on their part, it’s more likely to contain much more than a grain of truth. However, it might be stretching things a bit to regard this as a ‘new’ conclusion.


From the 1660s to the 1840s there was a fashion for mainly upper-class European young men of means to take what was known as The Grand Tour. This served as an educational rite of passage. Though primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy landed gentry, similar trips were made by wealthy young men of Protestant Northern European nations on the Continent, and from the second half of the 18th century, some South American, US and other overseas youths joined in. The tradition was extended to include more of the middle class after rail and steamship travel made the journey less of a burden – and Thomas Cook made the ‘Cook’s Tour’ a byword.


So Trojanowski and Piaskowska have done some research which tells us what we – or at least the upper and middle classes – have known since the 1660s. Education is supposed to bring enlightenment, isn’t it? Congratulations to them.