Why Cultural Intelligence is important and How to improve your CQ to become a global citizen

In a rapidly changing world with increased global connection, cultural differences are everywhere. As a result, high level of cultural intelligence is important for everyone. From a leader in business world to a global citizen in daily life, we all need to equip ourselves with essential skills for successfully navigating diverse cultural contexts, and become a more effective communicator. More importantly, we need to develop the capabilities to understand different cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and successfully navigate cultural differences in an interconnected future. 

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) empowers us to engage confidently and respectfully with counterparts from different cultural backgrounds, contributing to successful cross-cultural collaboration and communication. In this article, we will share with you valuable insights of why we need ‘cultural intelligence (CQ)’ – and how to develop and boost CQ as well as adapt our behaviour accordingly

Why we need Cultural Intelligence?

Cultural intelligence (CQ) is an increasingly important element of essential intelligence if you want to succeed in today’s globalized world of artificial intelligence, ever-changing technology, and innovation. 

Language isn’t the only barrier. As our interconnected world continues to change, we need to connect with people from different cultural backgrounds and work effectively in complex, culturally diverse situations. 

  • Whether you are a leader or an individual contributor, you need to have effective communication skills, especially in intercultural situations. Developing cultural competence skills help us understand,  effectively communicate with people across cultures to facilitate Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) conversations and infuse D&I into the organization. Inclusion matters — for everyone. According to Bain Inclusive Organization Survey in 2023, a sense of belonging unlocks employees’ potential, encourages challenges to the status quo, and boosts creativity, problem solving, and innovation. 
  • Cultural Intelligence is also one of the key “ingredients” to empower you think globally and act locally. In other words, CQ is the main recipe for living, studying and working successfully across cultures – if you want to become a truly Global Citizen.

What is Cultural Intelligence?

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is defined as the capability to function effectively in intercultural settings. The psychologist Soon Ang and her colleagues have researched and identified 4 fundamental components of CQ. Below is a summary of their findings (Van Dyne et al., 2012).

  • Motivational CQ reflects ‘the mental capacity to direct and sustain energy toward functioning and performing in intercultural situations’. When you have motivational CQ, you are motivated in learning and highly value the interactions with others from different cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, they are able to manage intercultural experiences confidently. As a result, people with high motivational CQ can engage, interact and work across cultures successfully.
  • Metacognitive CQ refers to the ‘mental capability to acquire and evaluate cultural knowledge’. It focuses on awareness and monitoring of cognitive processes (Flavell, 1979). 
  • Cognitive CQ describes ‘cultural-general and context-specific knowledge’ about cultures and cultural differences.
  • Behavioral CQ is the capability to ‘flex behaviours to fit different cultural contexts’. In particular, if you have high behavioural CQ, you will become a more effective and respectful communicator. This is driven by the ability to adjust the content, structure and style of their communication to meet the appropriate cultural standards.

How to develop and boost Cultural Intelligence?

According to the Cultural Intelligence CenterCultural Intelligence (CQ) is is built on four capabilities:

1. CQ Drive: Your curiosity, persistence, and motivation needed to work well with others.

2. CQ Knowledge: Understanding about how cultures are similar and different.

3. CQ Strategy: Self-awareness and your ability to plan for multicultural interactions.

4. CQ Action: Being able to adapt behaviour in multicultural contexts.

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Based on more than twenty years of research across over 100 countries, Cultural Intelligence Center recommend to develop above four capabilities to improve self-awareness and knowledge of other cultures and in turn better engage, communicate, and work effectively with people from all kinds of backgrounds.  Developing cross-cultural attitudes and skills may also increase the productivity and efficiency in an organisation.

Recommended Courses

  • Cultural intelligence: Become a global citizen – Coursera
  • Communicating across cultures – LinkedIn
  • Developing cross-cultural intelligence – LinkedIn
  • Leading with effective communication: How to position yourself as a leader through inclusive communication – edX
  • Managing conflicts on projects with Cultural and Emotional Intelligence – University of Maryland & edX
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