Action Activities for International Business
By Les Dlabay
Professor of Business
Lake Forest College, Illinois
Do you say to your students, "It's time to go over the homework"?
Or do you say, "It's time to present the results of your field
research"? The difference between these two statements is the
result of active engagement of students in the learning process.
Teachers frequently ask, "What are some effective ways to
develop student involvement and interaction?" When teaching
international business, some easy-to-implement activities can be
used to expand student interest and enhance learning.
Most international business experts consider "market analysis"
to be the most important aspect of planning global operations. Students
can learn about this process with culture and business environment
Activity 1: Cultural analysis. When greeting someone
in another country, should a person bow, nod, shake hands, or kiss?
This decision will be one of many cultural actions that could affect
international business activities. Have students conduct research
and, if possible, talk with someone from another country. They should
obtain information about various traditions, customs, foods, music,
clothing, recreation, holidays, and religion in one or more countries.
Cultural web sites: Mexico, Canada-U.S. comparison
cross-cultural comparisons (http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/1906/culture.html),
Executive Planet (http://www.executiveplanet.com/),
cultural profiles (http://www.getcustoms.com),
and cultural beliefs (http://www.zompist.com/amercult.html).
Activity 2: Business environment. Beyond culture,
various economic and political factors also affect global business
activities. Income levels, inflation, infrastructure, business regulations,
and government stability will affect a company's operations in foreign
markets. Have students obtain economic and political information
about a country. Ask them to prepare a short summary of their findings
and explain how this information might affect business activities
in that country.
Country information web sites: State Department (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/),
CIA Factbook (http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html),
country briefings from The Economist (http://www.economist.com/countries/),
World Bank Country Data (http://www.worldbank.org/data/),
International Monetary Fund (http://www.imf.org/external/country/index.htm),
country Facts and statistics at http://www.worldfactsandfigures.com/
Marketplace Analysis Activities
Many products sold in your area have a strong international business
connection. For example, food companies based in other countries
frequently sell in your local stores. In addition, many products
used by students are manufactured in other countries.
Activity 3: Package, label analysis. Have students
obtain food packages, clothing labels, or advertisements from other
countries. These items may be used to identify the country of origin
as well as to make observations about the culture, economy, and
Global packaging web sites: Foreign groceries museum
Breakfast characters guide (http://www.lavasurfer.com/cereal-guide.html),
Cereal Partners Worldwide (http://www.cerealpartners.co.uk),
Star Wars cereal in various countries (http://www.toysrgus.com/images-food/cereal-chart.html),
General Mills products by country (http://www.generalmills.com/corporate/businesses/international),
country web sites for Pepsi products (http://www.pepsico.com/company/brands_links.shtml).
Activity 4: In-store observations. In many cities,
ethnic stores and festivals are present. Have students visit to
observe products, displays, promotions, behaviors, and other activities.
Caution students not to be intrusive in the situation; they should
avoid drawing attention to their presence. The best advice is to
be a shopper who is carefully observing the environment. Have students
describe their observations and explain the situations they viewed.
Field observation web sites: Culture slides (http://www.geog.okstate.edu/users/lightfoot/lfoot.htm),
marketplace images (http://www.openair.org/opair/restwrld.html).
Field Research Activities
Student interactions with people who have lived in or traveled
to other countries can be a valuable resource.
Activity 5: Interviews. Talking to others who are
familiar with another country is an easy way to obtain cultural
information. When conducting interviews, students should prepare
four or five questions that will get people talking about the main
topics they are studying. Then, students should ask follow-up questions
to obtain more details based on the initial responses received.
"Interviews" conducted by e-mail should include no more
than five questions. Remind students to send individual e-mails,
and not "spam" many people at one time. The results of
interviews can be reported in writing or orally. Students should
also be encouraged to use interview findings in research papers.
U.S. government contacts around the world web sites:
U.S. Export Assistance Center Contacts (http://www.export.gov/comm_svc/eac.html),
U.S. Embassy contacts (http://usembassy.state.gov)
and foreign embassies in the U.S. (http://www.embassy.org).
Activity 6: Consumer survey. Have students create
a short questionnaire-no more than ten questions. Topics of surveys
may include opinions about international trade, quality of products
from other countries, and international events. Results of the survey
can be reported using posters, PowerPoint, or other visuals.
Conducting survey web sites: Online survey information
information on conducting surveys (http://www.mapnp.org/library/commskls/surveys/surveys.htm#anchor4294401805
Location, climate, terrain, waterways, natural resources, and other
geographic factors are fundamental to understanding international
Activity 7: Geography Analysis. Have students prepare
a summary with maps of the climate, waterways, and terrain of a
country to explain the influence of geographic factors on international
business activities. They may also identify natural resources and
agricultural products that could create a global business opportunity
for a country.
Map and geography web sites: Atlapedia (http://www.atlapedia.com),
University of Texas map collection (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/index.html),
World Atlas.com (http://www.worldatlas.com/aatlas/world.htm),
About Geography (http://geography.about.com/),
Geography Network (http://www.geographynetwork.com/).
Activity 8: Trade relations. A country's trade activities
are affected by location, waterways, and other geographic factors.
Have students study maps to identify geographic elements that could
encourage and discourage trade within a region. Ask students to
write or tell a brief summary, with maps to visually explain their
Regional trade agreement web sites: Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (http://www.aseansec.org/),
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (http://www.apec.org),
CARICOM (Caribbean Economic Community), CARICOM-Caribbean Economy
Economic Community of West African States (http://www.mbendi.co.za/cb17.htm),
European Union (http://europa.eu.int/index_en.htm),
North American Free Trade Agreement (http://www.nafta-sec-alena.org).
The money of a country provides tangible evidence of the nation's
past as well as information about its economic activities.
Activity 9: Banknote analysis. The images on paper
money reflect the history, geography, economics, and culture of
a country. Many students have access to sample banknotes from other
countries. In addition, images are available online. Using actual
paper currency or online images, have students describe the visual
features (both front and back) of banknotes from one or more countries.
Students should point out evidence of historic, geographic, economic,
cultural-social, political-legal influences on the images portrayed.
In addition, students could conduct research to identify factors
that have affected the value of the currency.
Global banknote image web site: Geographical Directory
of World Paper Money (http://aes.iupui.edu/rwise/notedir/mappage.html)
Activity 10: Changing Exchange Rates. Each day, changes
occur for the value of a country's currency in relation to other
countries. Have students prepare a chart (with visuals) of recent
values of different currencies. In addition, students should be
able to discuss factors that may have affected recent changes in
the exchange rates of these countries.
Foreign exchange rate web sites: Universal Currency
Currencies of the World (http://fx.sauder.ubc.ca/currency_table.html),
the Euro (http://www.euro.ecb.int/).
Working in teams is a vital skill desired by almost all employers.
The use of team projects can result in several benefits for students.
Possible project topics include:
Case analysis. Student teams can be assigned an actual
situation (from a news article) or created scenario about a company
planning to do business in another country. Team research should
involve background information on the company and country. Students
should organize their findings as recommendations for action by
Field research. Team projects might bring together
field observations, interviews, and surveys to obtain information
on an international business topic. The study could involve using
various research techniques to analyze a country or to plan global
A business plan for International. A team project
may involve various elements of an international business plan,
including: (1) identifying a product; (2) analyzing the foreign
market; (3) planning financing methods; and (4) creating a marketing
In the team project process, several steps are usually involved.
First, forming teams and identifying topics. Next, conducting research
and organizing findings Finally, reporting results with a research
reports, team presentation, or in a visual format, such as a video,
newsletter, or web site. Written reports should include visuals
such as maps, photos, and posters to enhance the presentation.
Team project and presentation web sites: Virtual
Presentation Assistant (http://www.ukans.edu/cwis/units/coms2/vpa/vpa.htm)
effective presentations information (http://www.kumc.edu/SAH/OTEd/jradel/effective.html)
effective team projects (http://www.csufresno.edu/cetl/FacInfo/QuickTips/Teams.html).