Cultural Intelligence: Beyond The Business Case

Cultural Intelligence: Beyond The Business Case

by Felicity Menzies

Cultural Intelligence is the capability to manage cultural diversity: the set of knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to recognise, understand, reflect on, and adapt to cultural differences.

Individuals with high Cultural Intelligence (CQ) display four critical competencies:

CQ Drive is the willingness to work with others from diverse backgrounds. It includes an ability to overcome explicit or unconscious bias and the capacity to persist in challenging intercultural settings—even when the individual feels confused, frustrated, or burnt out.

CQ Knowledge is the understanding of culture and cultural differences. That involves more than awareness of variations in language, customs, and appearance. Core cultural differences like values, assumptions, and beliefs are often invisible but cause the most problems—and are frequently overlooked.

CQ Strategy is the ability to flex mentally. With high CQ Strategy, individuals are not confined to a single worldview. They are open to new or integrative ideas.

CQ Action is the ability to flex verbal and non-verbal behaviour. CQ Action decreases the risk of miscommunication and helps an individual respond to diverse others in a manner that conveys respect and builds trust and rapport.

Cultural Intelligence helps organisations better manage complexity in their markets and workforce. However, the benefits of Cultural Intelligence transcend workplace effectiveness and organisational performance.

Different minds, common problems

Globalisation is not limited to business. International issues include population growth, communicable disease, and climate change as well as fuel costs, terrorism, and geopolitics. The actions of others across the globe influence our lives, and vice versa. We are all intertwined with people from different cultural backgrounds.

Solving global problems needs cooperation among diverse individuals, organisations, and governments. These parties may hold radically different and opposing views. Being able to understand and manage the different perspectives, values, and customs of diverse stakeholders is critical to achieving a solution.

Cultural hatred

Cultural hatred is a significant cause of conflict and destruction across the globe. It threatens our economic and political stability, physical security, and ethnic and cultural identities. Since the mid-1980s, cultural conflicts have outnumbered non-cultural conflicts globally, reaching a historical high in the first decade of this century. This is linked to increased cultural fragmentation within societies, and advances in communication and transportation technologies, which have increased contact between different cultural groups.

Contrary to Samuel Huntington’s warning in 1993 of an impending ‘clash of civilisations’ between Western and Islamic nations, four out of five cultural conflicts now take place within national borders. Religious, linguistic, and heritage clashes are the main causes of domestic conflict.

Both internationally and domestically, cultural conflicts are prone to violence. They account for almost 60 percent of all wars.

In an increasingly interconnected world, the risk of cultural hatred has intensified. We need a fundamental transformation of how we interrelate with diverse others; moving from judgement and fear towards respect for and acceptance of our differences. Without this, the global village faces a fragile, conflict-laden, and violent future.

Social butterfly

Advances in communication and transportation technologies have created family and social networks that extend across national borders. Our leisure activities and travel are also international. Migration and demographic changes have diversified our communities and workplaces. In our personal lives, as well as our work lives, our well-being is linked to how we interact with diverse others.

Personal growth

Individuals with Cultural Intelligence are more respectful and tolerant of differences. They are less judgemental and more inclusive of others. Cultural Intelligence releases you from the confines of a single worldview. Opportunities you had never thought possible open up and enrich your life.

Global and local implications

Cultural Intelligence offers important practical applications for solving global issues. It has the potential to reduce violent cultural clashes within or between nations. And Cultural Intelligence promotes harmonious relations in our communities, workplaces, and personal lives. The benefits that flow from improved intergroup relations support human prosperity and survival—goals that transcend yet underpin corporate success.

Ang, S., & Van Dyne, L. (2008). Conceptualization of cultural intelligence: Definition, distinctiveness, and nomological network. In S. Ang & L. Van Dyne (Eds.), Handbook of cultural intelligence: Theory, measurement, and applications (pp. 3-15). Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Bertelsmann Stiftung. (2010). Culture and conflict in global perspective: The cultural dimensions of conflicts from 1945 to 2007 (M. C. Boecker, L. Ulama-Benazzouz, & B. Stiftung Eds.). Gutersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (Vol. 3). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Felicity Menzies is CEO and Principal Consultant at Include-Empower.Com, a diversity and inclusion consultancy with expertise in inclusive leadership, unconscious bias, cultural intelligence and inclusion, gender equity, empowering diverse talent. Felicity is an accredited facilitator with the Cultural Intelligence Centre and the author of A World of Difference. Felicity has over 15 years of experience working with and managing diverse workforces in blue chip companies and is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand. Felicity also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.