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Education and Career

Cultural Intelligence: New “Q” on the Block

Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

One hundred years ago, the first U.S. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test was created by Psychologist Alfred Binet and Stanford University. In 1990, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was defined as a scientifically testable “intelligence” by Psychology Professors Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer. And in 2003, Cultural Intelligence (CQ) was introduced by Professors Christopher Earley and Soon Ang.

As the latest form of “intelligence,” CQ is the new Q on the block. But it’s quickly earned respect as a research-based method to measure and predict a person’s ability to succeed in a variety of cultures. And based on an increasingly diverse work force and the growth of global markets, CQ is gaining attention… and making a difference… in numerous organizations.

CQ Defined

Cultural intelligence is “the capability to function effectively across a variety of cultural contexts, such as ethnic, generational, and organizational cultures,” according to Dr. David Livermore, author of nine books and president of the Cultural Intelligence Center.  His firm conducts research and provides CQ assessment tools, certifications, development programs and consulting to a broad range of organizations, including Coca Cola, Goldman Sachs, Starbucks, IBM and Google.

The CQ assessment measures skills in four capabilities: Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action.  CQ Drive is an individual’s interest, drive and confidence to adapt to multicultural situations. CQ Knowledge is a person’s understanding of how cultures are similar and different. CQ Strategy is an individual’s awareness and ability to plan for different multicultural interactions.  And CQ Action is a person’s ability to adapt when relating and working inter-culturally.

“Essentially, CQ is your ability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. The culturally intelligent aren’t trying to become all things to all people,” Livermore says.  “Instead, they’re comfortable in their own skin but can adapt the way they lead, negotiate, and build trust just enough to be effective based on what the situation requires.”

Why CQ Matters?

Learning to collaborate across cultures brings benefits beyond working in different geographic regions. Think: improved ability to partner with other departments (Manufacturing, Engineering, Sales,) job classifications (hourly, salaried, union, management,) other businesses (suppliers, OEMs, retailers,) or types of organizations (for-profit, non-profit, public, private, academic, government, political.)

Livermore has multiple examples of how leaders and organizations have applied CQ to improve effectiveness in reaching bottom-line objectives and building mutually beneficial relationships.  In his book, “The Cultural Intelligence Difference,” Livermore explains how improved CQ helps individuals with decision-making, networking and negotiating skills, which helps their careers and their companies.

For example, Coca Cola prioritizes cultural intelligence in its high-potential programs, using CQ assessments, projects, personal development plans and feedback.  Participants make presentations to Coke’s Chairman and Operating Committee to show how their team’s business innovations will bring global benefits to the company.

Google used cultural intelligence to enhance their Asia-Pacific recruiting practice.  Prior to using CQ, recruiters often overlooked top talent because their Western views of innovative, highly competent behaviors colored their ability to see potential in many Asia-Pacific candidates.

Livermore also cites a study that examined the impact of cultural intelligence on corporate profitability.  For 18 months, participating companies engaged in a cultural intelligence program that applied CQ to training, hiring and strategic planning.  Over the same period, 92 percent of the companies saw increased revenues – and all of them said cultural intelligence was a significant contributor to their increased profits.

How to Improve CQ?

If you want to improve CQ, there are a number of steps you can take:

1. Understand Your Own Culture – A key step in developing CQ is to recognize your own culture – the sum of attitudes, customs and beliefs that distinguishes one group from another.  Studying your family, country or company history, reflecting on your values and how they were shaped, asking questions about what’s expected and why are all ways to become grounded in your own culture. “Understanding why we think and behave the way we do is a key step in developing cultural intelligence,” says Nancy Philippart, Ph.D., who applies her CQ assessment certification in her teaching and work with Wayne State University, Ford Motor Company and other organizations. “That baseline helps us recognize our underlying assumptions and the fact that there are different ways of communicating, partnering and working.”

2.  Understand Your CQ – Determining your strengths and weaknesses in cultural intelligence – individually and as a company – helps focus your improvement strategy. One way is through cultural competence tests, offered by several organizations.  For example, The Cultural Intelligence Center CQ assessment includes an online survey and personalized feedback report to help people improve their cultural intelligence. Organizations receive reports that summarize scores for groups of participants, compares them with worldwide norms, and offers suggestions for how to use the feedback.

3. Learn and Experience –  Even without an assessment, there are many opportunities to learn and improve your CQ.  As individuals:  Read about different cultures, different communication and work styles and cultural intelligence. Travel to new places. Seek work assignments in other countries, states or areas of your company.  Volunteer to work with diverse groups of people. Use resources such as Michigan State University’s Global Edge – an online portal with information, insights and learning resources on global business activities. As organizations:  Encourage your team members to talk about their cultures and experiences.  Create an environment where differences are embraced. Provide cross-cultural assessments and development opportunities. Share feedback and coaching when team members excel or stumble in cross-cultural environments.

4. Suspend Judgment and Be Open to Differences – A key component of cultural intelligence is our willingness and ability to learn from cultural differences. Avoiding stereotypes, observing others’ behaviors and reactions, recognizing the way we do things is not the only or right way and taking the time to think before acting are easier said than done.  But they are also extremely powerful. Steps 1 – 3 can help pave the way to hone these skills.
While still a newbie in the science of intelligence, CQ’s importance is growing in our multi-cultural world.

“Research consistently demonstrates that IQ and EQ play a role in successful leadership. CQ picks up where IQ and EQ leave off,” Livermore explains.  “It allows you to have the similar measure of effectiveness and likability when working with people from different cultural backgrounds.”

Written by:  Katie McBride, Principal of R3 Communications LLC, has a robust record of developing and executing communication strategies that drive positive business results and improve internal and external reputation. Her background includes consulting and partnering with CEOs and multiple C-suite executives across numerous GM business units/functional areas; expertise and broad experience in global internal/external communications, employee engagement and crisis management and a strong international market cultural sensitivity through leading global teams.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Education and Career - Cultural Intelligence: New “Q” on the Block
Katie McBride
Katie McBride is a senior advisor for Lee Hecht Harrison’s International Center for Executive Options, helping senior leaders transition from one meaningful role to the next. She also is principal of R3 Communications LLC, a strategic communications firm. Katie’s background includes consulting and partnering with CEOs and C-suite executives from diverse industries; expertise and broad experience in global internal/external communications, employee engagement; crisis and reputation management.