What is cultural intelligence and how can it affect business?
The constant quest for self-betterment is a universal theme in the lives of leaders worldwide. After all, you set the tone for your team. Whoever you create yourself into becomes an integral part of your company culture, which most definitely has an impact on your company’s success.
Fifty years ago, it was thought that the most successful leaders have the highest IQ – because it meant that they were the smartest person in the room. Well, as wildly impactful entrepreneurs exploded onto the scene, we came to realize this was not the case. Not all of them have high IQs and in fact, not all of them had traditional education.
Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, and Larry Ellison all dropped out of college.
These icons were certainly smart. But even more powerful than their IQ was their ability to create something out of nothing and move people to rally around their vision. And that takes a little thing called Emotional Intelligence or “EQ.”
On the back of these entrepreneurial successes, experts began to point to EQ, or emotional intelligence, as the key to building a booming business. And they were really onto something.
While you might specialise in advanced mathematics and can build a robot from a pile of tin cans and some wire – if you can’t rally a team around it and know how to sell it, all those brains won’t turn a profit.
If you can’t adapt your product to fill a need, because you can’t relate to people around you, you may as well go home. There’s a reason why people with regular IQs outperform those with high IQs 70 percent of the time. And it’s because of the other kind of smart—emotional intelligence.
EQ has become the most sought-after quality by HR managers for the last 20 years or so, since the concept first appeared in the mid-nineties. They started to realize that even the most brilliant employees on paper may sink like a stone when it came to team work.
Now we’re evolving to recognize another kind of quality that the best leaders and employees need to have. Given the expansion of global businesses, a new type of “measurement” is on the rise: it’s called “CI” or “Cultural Intelligence.”
Cultural Intelligence (CI)
It may sound a little pretentious, but cultural intelligence really is a thing. You see, Emotional Intelligence works when two people are from the same culture with similar norms and they’re good at relating to each other based on mutual empathy and respect.
Cultural Intelligence takes things a step further. CI is the ability to create fruitful collaborations with people who think and act differently from ourselves. They may be from other countries, speak different languages, have a starkly different working ethic, social values, or way of dressing. But, their contributions are equally valuable.
Being culturally intelligent is about having an understanding of why people act in a certain way and what elements of their society make them do what they do.
For example, if you run an international contact and operations center, you might notice how each culture likes to be handled during the resolution process. Some cultures appreciate directness, while others might take that as rude. Not taking this into account will have a direct impact on your customer satisfaction, online reviews, and subsequently, your bottom line.
Raise Your Cultural IQ
As you look towards improving your company’s cultural awareness, think about looking at the traditional metrics and company numbers. Try challenging yourself to improve your own cultural intelligence. Be honest and ask yourself if you have stereotypes. Look beyond what you see every day.
If there are people and cultures you don’t know much about, start to learn. Take a vacation if you can. There’s nothing like going and seeing for yourself firsthand. But an open mind and willingness to learn is the most important thing. Try taking a salsa dance class, learning a new language, speaking to people from different places, or brushing up on your history – and encourage your team to do the same.
Using Cultural Intelligence in Business
Instead of constantly managing each market as an individual domestic market, look for opportunities to manage as a true global marketplace and leverage your resources across multiple markets enabling you to gather and consume a lot more data across markets and business units directly from your customers.
As business becomes increasingly global, even if your company’s next steps don’t take you to foreign shores, it’s likely that you’ll be working with overseas customers, or hiring culturally diverse employees. So, be smart about it. Think deeply about it. Be open-minded, maintain personal integrity, be reliable, demonstrate humbleness when learning about new cultures and find the right balance of cross cultural communication. Above all, be yourself, act with integrity and allow others the space to be themselves.
Be aware of your own behaviours and actions, learn from them and reflect on them. Learn as you go and expect to make mistakes, no-one is perfect, the key here is to treat these as positive learning experiences.
Cultural Intelligence is the foundation for global businesses that last.