There have been a lot of additions to the ‘intelligence family’ over recent years with emotional intelligence (EQ) being the most famous. Cultural intelligence (CQ) has evolved out of previous approaches to cultural competence, e.g., the Do’s and Taboo’s school and the underlying value orientations of national cultures school. Neither approach really enabled people to understand how culture works nor how to adapt across a range of different cultural contexts.
Professor Martha Maznevski at the IMD business school describes CQ as “emotional intelligence across contexts.” Unlike emotional intelligence which deals with forming and maintaining positive relationships with different individuals, CQ is about forming and maintaining positive relationships with different social groups. EQ can be said to be an essential prerequisite for CQ.
As a simple working definition of CQ, let me give you the following: CQ is the ability to form and maintain productive relationships across cultures by making appropriate adaptions to difference.
CQ isn’t just for business travelers. In today’s workplace, most people work and collaborate across cultures without travelling anywhere. New communications technologies enable us to interact with colleagues worldwide, and even those who only work domestically will need to form productive relationships across cultures.
What are the key elements of CQ?
Mindset: A way of looking at the world that is (1) respectful of different values, beliefs and behaviors, and (2) is open to seeing, thinking, and doing things differently.
Knowledge: Of cultural orientations, in general, e.g., differences in task-relationship focus or individual-group orientation, along with an understanding of how these differences influence assumptions, interpretations and behaviors.
Adaptive Skills: An ability to analyze a cross-cultural interaction, decide on how to adapt, apply the chosen adaptation(s), process what happens, and tune the adaptation(s) as needed.
I’ll outline what I call The ADAPT Cycle in a future post.