We’ve all heard of an IQ test, and maybe even an emotional intelligence test, but now companies are starting to pay more attention to cultural intelligence (CQ). In a world driven by results and growth, CQ simply cannot be ignored any longer.

What is CQ?

Cultural Intelligence is learning to see things and people as we are, but also to see things from the other person’s perspective. Observing and recognising difference is a good starting point.

To wrap it up neatly, we’ll quote David Livermore, the President of the Cultural Intelligence Center and author of ten award-winning books. “[Cultural Intelligence] It’s the capability to function effectively across a variety of cultural contexts, such as ethnic, generational, and organisational cultures.”

How we think, behave and interact are defined by culture. It’s the foundation that gives us a sense of identity, as an individual a part of a certain social grouping.

What does this all mean for my business?

Today, our world has become a global village. So, what defines and governs behaviours for one group will not be the same for another. As companies and people move across borders, our work environments have become equally as diverse. CQ is a guide to a culturally intelligent understanding and response to our diverse business environment, leading to more successful business relationships.

CQ equips us all to understand and interact with each other in complex situations. It picks up where emotional intelligence (EQ) leaves off, you may have a high EQ but that doesn’t automatically translate into a high CQ.

Cultural intelligence isn’t about learning a specific set of behavioural responses of another culture in order to successfully negotiate a business contract or understand a market… although it may help. But knowledge alone won’t cut it, there needs to be a deeper awareness of ourselves, others and the world around us.

Leaders need to be the first to embrace CQ and it starts with a greater self-awareness, recognising and overcoming our unconscious fears and biases that we may have about another culture. In any interaction, we bring our previous experiences, perception and stereotypes. Unchecked assumptions can cloud our understanding and can potentially be misleading. This may result in actions or behaviours that are based off flawed theories and can impact the way we run our businesses.

Where do you start?

It takes leadership to develop CQ and companies that do, such as Coca-Cola, reap the innovative and creative rewards. Leaders of organisations have the potential to build culturally intelligent organisations and these organisations become known for being inclusive and innovative, but only if they first develop CQ themselves. Transformative leadership requires leaders to practice what they preach.

Practically, developing cultural intelligence is a process of learning, experiencing and being coached to make wise and courageous choices. We can grow our CQ by combining new knowledge with daily experiences. It will enable us to put into practice any knowledge gained, where our responses are thought through. Ongoing reflection and coaching allow individuals to gain greater awareness, negotiate and move forward.

Cultural intelligence as a competency can also be measured in organisations. This allows for ongoing collective growth and development of CQ’s four capabilities:

  • Drive
  • Knowledge
  • Strategy
  • Action.

Cultural training needs to be embedded in an organisational framework to encourage further reflection and application of what is learned. This is an investment that unleashes untapped potential. It takes time, money and strategy.

So, how can you get started on the journey of embedding cultural intelligence in your organisation?

It’s simple, just talk to a Skills account manager to discuss the options available and how we can help. At Skills, we have the ability to leverage the various arms our business to support your needs, from helping you enrol in an IMNZ Cultural Intelligence one-day course, or connecting you to a leadership coach from Tocker Associates, right through to helping your staff gain leadership qualifications.

Whatever the case we’re here to help. All you need to do is reach out.