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Cultural Intelligence – How Necessary Is It?

Updated: Jun 7, 2019



Culture is powerful factor. Culture is personal to people living in that country or state. Cultural variables are known to predict appropriate customs and trade beliefs. With time, technology, innovations and discoveries, the globe has changed into one big business market. With modernisation and emergence of stronger trade relationships between countries, the old days’ cultural differences started fading, slowly making way for countries to interact with each other, and maintain stronger ties. Distances, cultures, climates and food are no longer a deterring factor for growth and relationship building.


Cultural Intelligence If simply put across, Cultural intelligence or Cultural Quotient (CQ) is a term used in business, education, government and academic parlance as the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures. Originally, the term cultural intelligence and the abbreviation “CQ” was developed by the research done by Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne as a researched-based way of measuring and predicting intercultural performance. Today, Cultural Intelligence is attached to a more blended understanding of cultures across borders and its application at home ground level.


Need for high Cultural Intelligence With change comes the need to understand and accept changes.  The cultural change has caught on so rapidly, that a completely new mindset needs to be adopted or absorbed to be able to move with the flow. Today it is no longer one religion, one country, one set of people.  In fact, if we look at today’s workplace, one can find people from different parts of the world, working together as a team. The need to be Culturally Intelligent, Culturally Sensitive or develop our Cultural Quotient has now taken precedence.


For a better understanding, here is an example of Culture Diversity – You have International airports like Heathrow with posters advertising the global bank HSBC that show a grasshopper and the message “USA—Pest. China—Pet. Northern Thailand—Appetizer.” This is just one example. Need I say more?


Being Culturally Intelligent Employees are the backbone of any organisation. With the amount of cross cultural interactions taking place across the globe, employees today, must possess a high level of cultural intelligence to help them bridge knowledge gaps.  An integration of knowledge and resources a multicultural workforce could bring into the organisation, will help in long-term growth and success. Organisations must thus play a crucial role in providing the right training and platforms, to help employees’ bridge cultural divides.


Cultural Intelligence. A combination of:

Cultural Understanding Emotional Intelligence Social & Personal Awareness

Developing Cultural Intelligence

  • Be open to change Understand the benefits that a culturally diverse team could bring and enjoy working with them. The world’s gone global, and so should you.

  • Increase your cultural knowledge Understand how today businesses function with respect to cultural and societal influences.

  • Develop your cultural knowledge Whether you are working in another country or have people from another country working in your team, it would be favourable to find out more about that country’s customs and traditions, cultural differences, food and religion, some do’s and don’ts.  This knowledge will help in smoother interactions, conflict resolutions, a deeper bonding and teamwork.

  • Develop Cross Culture understanding Critical for today’s businesses, learn how you can interact competently across borders.

  • Intercultural “mindfulness” Possess the ability to connect sensitively, by increasing knowledge and initiating action.

  • Adapting behaviour Raising self-awareness and modifying one’s behaviour to achieve a rapport is highly favourable

Developing the above traits for successful cross-cultural interactions is a step forward towards initiating better cultural relationships. One would also have to build up relationship skills, have a tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, will have to adapt to certain cultural demands.  And yes, all these can be achieved by being aware and accepting.

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