You know that cultures differ around the world. You know that people have different preferences on both cultural (be it country culture or a certain professional group like HR or IT) and individual level. You know that diversity in the team is important and may bring you many benefits. Is this enough to say you’re culturally intelligent?
You probably are more than majority of the people. But if only it were so easy! 🙂
Knowledge is a great first step. It shows awareness and readiness to learn more about how you and other people can work better together. Apart from knowledge about differences, it’s also important to acknowledge the similarities, plan for interactions and practice various strategies. Only when you’ve worked on all of those, you can really grow your cultural intelligence.
What is Cultural Intelligence?
Cultural intelligence (CQ) is the ability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It consists of four capabilities – Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action. You can see how knowledge is just one component out of four. Let’s have a look at all four of them:
Drive is your motivation and level of curiosity for multicultural interactions. You may be more or less naturally interested in reaching out to people from backgrounds different from yours, as well as more or less confident while thrown into such multicultural situation. Also, even if you don’t naturally feel energised in a multicultural context, you might have a certain level of external motivation encouraging you to look into this topic, such as the need to be a better manager or being assigned to a project abroad. All of this makes you more likely to proceed with any next steps necessary to grow your CQ.
Knowledge is your understanding how various cultures may be similar or different, on many levels – business culture, leadership, laws, linguistics. We talked more about various aspects of knowledge here, so I will defer you to this article for more information. Also, if you search for the knowledge tag on the blog, you will find a lot of useful information and tips which will expand your intercultural understanding.
Strategy takes you to the next level and draws upon the knowledge you’ve previously gained. It’s the awareness of your own cultural preferences and how they impact your interactions with others, as well as the ability to plan for multicultural interactions and check whether your understanding was correct or not. This is incredibly important and can really boost the effectiveness of your work within the cross-cultural environment. However, you can’t completely avoid misunderstandings and it’s important to remember. But the strategy skills help you learn more efficiently from any challenges as well as notice some potential difficulties in the moment or just before they occur.
Action is the cherry on top. Because you can know a lot about the world, how various groups and cultures operate, what are their preferences, what are your preferences. You might even know what strategies might be worth trying to improve the working relationships in the intercultural context. But in order to do this, you need to take action. It won’t just magically happen. If you know that the culture is more relationship based, and you know you should probably share some more personal details or spend more time on informal conversations- – but:you won’t do it – – then you haven’t changed the status quo, have you? And so you can’t expect any different results. Action is the ability to adapt when working in multicultural contexts, and that often poses many additional questions, like: Who should adapt? If I adapt am I still being my true self? What if the behaviour that they expect contradicts my values?
As you can see, cultural intelligence is more than just the knowledge about the do’s and don’ts of the country. It’s a deeper knowledge of your own values which may show in the form of unexpected emotions if you didn’t know they were so important to you. It’s planning for intercultural encounters so that you can pay close attention in the moment and adjust accordingly. And it’s putting yourself out there, trying different methods and approaches, to broaden your skills portfolio and ensure you can be successful in any environment, even one that is not naturally close to your cultural background.