Cultural Intelligence: Huh?

So what in the world is Cultural Intelligence?

I’m so glad you asked!

Just like the Intelligence Quotient (IQ), there is a Cultural Intelligence Quotient (CQ) that measures a person’s ability to function well in unfamiliar environments.

This definition published by the Harvard Business Review is helpful:

Cultural intelligence: an outsider’s seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures the way that person’s compatriots would.

Let me give you a few snippets from a great article at Forbes about Cultural Intelligence:

  1. Leaders with high CQs understand how to encounter new cultural situations, judge what goes on in them and make appropriate adjustments to understand and behave effectively in those otherwise disorienting circumstances. They have repertoires of strategies and behaviors for orienting themselves when they encounter unfamiliar behaviors and perspectives, so they can discern whether a seemingly bizarre behavior is explained by culture or is unique to a particular person or organization. Such discernment is critical in, for instance, cross-border negotiations, understanding new markets, unifying dispersed leadership teams and developing global marketing plans.
  2. Business leaders with a low CQ may see no connection between cultural intelligence and the profit-and-loss sheets that determine their survival, but they miss the staggering bottom line differences that separate people and companies who prioritize enhancing their cultural intelligence from those who don’t. Research … has found that people with higher CQs are consistently more personally and professionally effective. They have an edge in the crowded job market and enjoy greater personal satisfaction and less burnout in all kinds of multicultural situations.
  3. A growing number of leaders in business, government and nonprofits are realizing the benefits of assessing and developing their CQ. It’s a matter of having the skills you need to lead in today’s globalized world. You don’t get CQ from intuition or experience alone, but anyone can develop it.

The Good News about Your Cultural Intelligence Quotient (CQ)

Well, first the bad news: Going with your gut is NOT a good strategy! Especially if this is your first foray into an intercultural environment. Trust me, you won’t just “get it right” because you’re considered a people-person in your home context. But the good news is this: we can all DEVELOP OUR INTELLIGENCE in this important area. Check these guys out for some First Steps, or Next Steps in your CQ development.

Ron VanPeursem
Ron VanPeursem is the Content Marketing Strategist for Shift Digital Media, and co-owner of Vihanti Digital Services (India). Ron blogs about Cultural Intelligence, Business in Intercultural Contexts, Education Theory and Content Marketing.

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