Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is NOT an option

Have you noticed that many people you work with, along with your local and global vendors were born and raised in completely different parts of the world? Do you agree that we can no longer be culturally inept when it comes to working with other cultures?Silicon Valley’s workforce continues to increase in the representation of professionals from countries such as India, China, Vietnam, and Russia.

It’s not unusual for people to ask me “What is Cultural Intelligence, or CQ?” – After all, it is not a common term we hear on a regular basis.

You have probably heard of IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient), but what is CQ?

The Cultural Intelligence Center defines CQ or Cultural Intelligence as “The capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts.” And yes, like all the previous Qs mentioned. CQ is indeed measurable.

Some signs that demonstrate the lack of Cultural Intelligence are getting in the way of business:

  • Conflict arising from a misunderstanding around cultural styles of communication – too direct or too indirect.
  • Feedback is seen as being too harsh because the receiver is from a culture where ‘saving face’ is crucial in motivating them.
  • Employees freaking out about 1 on 1 meetings with executives because questioning a high level manager is something that goes against their respect for hierarchy.
  • Offshore vendors seem uncooperative because their U.S clients or counterparts have not invested in building ‘relationship’ – a critical element in doing business in many foreign countries.

It would be easy to say that “WE HAVE AN APP” for that. There are many organizations that have software tools that educate them about cultural protocols and suggest how to interact with a specific culture. We call this ‘Cultural Knowledge’.

Cultural Knowledge is good thing, but it isn’t the entire solution. While cultural knowledge focuses on differences, Cultural Intelligence focuses on how to close the gap through our personal motivation when working with other cultures. It also looks at our flexibility and how we act and strategize when we interact with cultures outside of our own. You can call it an inside out approach. This makes CQ more holistic.