The purpose of this paper is to explore the action learning experience of business students in cross‐cultural teams in the role of international business information gatekeepers for small‐ and medium‐sized enterprises (SME) focused on international business opportunities.
Action research is applied by combining a questionnaire survey, analysis of mid‐term and final project reports, reflective team discussions and feedback from representatives of enterprises.
The cross‐cultural alignment of teamwork habits – offering leads for business contacts when presenting broader innovative ideas to SMEs, demonstrating the competence of the team when specifying the preliminary task and sharing knowledge with other teams – are essential challenges for project teams. Reflections of the teamwork process reveal the impact of some of the dimensions of cultural diversity introduced by Hofstede and Trompenaars.
Student teams and enterprises did not represent all key Estonian export destinations. Southern European countries and China are overrepresented in comparison with northern European countries that are culturally closer to Estonia. Further research could link action research, follow‐up surveys of SMEs involved in the projects and comparisons of SME samples from different business sectors.
Entrepreneurs in Baltic countries and in other new EU member states can benefit from gatekeepers that help entrepreneurs understand more advanced markets and to develop cross‐border networking with partners in other regions of Europe. A virtual community that can match students from different cultures, before and after their Erasmus exchange, in a co‐operation network for a cross‐border market study and search for contacts within enterprises is needed to facilitate more advanced cross‐border networking in the entrepreneurship‐education process.
The paper highlights factors supporting and inhibiting cross‐cultural synergies between action learning and e‐learning, cross‐border student exchange and knowledge sharing between SMEs and international student teams.
Elenurm, T. (2008), "Applying cross‐cultural student teams for supporting international networking of Estonian enterprises", Baltic Journal of Management, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 145-158. https://doi.org/10.1108/17465260810875488
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