We are all familiar with IQ and EQ. Today’s environment that is more complex, dynamic and competitive than ever before has thrown up a new term called CQ (Cultural Intelligence). The importance of CQ asking businesses to function efficiently in different cultural contexts has never been more important.
Employees who have a very high level of CQ are able to bridge the divides and knowledge gaps in an organization, educate their colleagues about different cultures, help to build interpersonal connections in a multicultural office environment, enhance innovation and creativity and assist the organization makes the best use of multiple perspectives in a multicultural workforce.
It is not just enough to be intelligent, emotionally mature or have good social skills. CQ is a combination of cultural knowledge, cross-cultural skills, and cultural metacognition and these skills do not operate in isolation from each other.
Cultural Knowledge is the understanding of the sensitivity of other cultures in different contexts; for example, how people behave when they disagree with each other and how they give feedback to those that report to them.
Knowledge can be gained through newspapers, books, movies, travelling to a country and having friends from different cultures. Being mindful of the uniqueness and the nuances of each culture and the wisdom of when this information could be used in the future will go a long way in boosting your cultural knowledge.
Cross-cultural skills consist of the ability to
- Develop a relationship with other cultures through talking and interacting
- Manage uncertainties, ambiguity, and change in a multicultural exchange
- The ability to adapt your behaviour to the cultural demands of unfamiliar environments
- Empathize with a person from a different culture; putting yourself in their shoes and looking at a situation from their perspective
- Being sensitive to feelings and subtle meanings in various cultural contexts
Studying or working in a foreign culture can help you practice these skills through trial and error. Developing these skills helps one to enhance their cultural knowledge. For example, in cultures such as Spain, meeting someone 10 minutes after a scheduled meeting is not considered late. So, if your Spanish colleague does not turn up on time for a meeting, you can rest assured that nothing is amiss. Eating food with your fingers is a norm in India, whereas, in western countries like the U. K. and the U. S. A., it is frowned upon if you do not use a fork and a knife.
Cultural Metacognition or Cultural Mindfulness is the knowledge and control of one’s thinking and learning activities under different cultural experiences and strategies. Being mindful is the awareness of various cultural contexts, analyzing interactive situations and planning on a course of action in these situations.
Practice mental exercises by observing, analyzing and reflecting others’ behaviours, situations, and your own reactions. Take down notes in unsuccessful interactions and find out what went wrong; did you miss or misread any word or behaviour and how would you behave differently in a similar situation?
Developing your CQ in such a manner will definitely go a long way in helping you and your organization navigate cross-cultural boundaries nimbly.