Broadly, cultural intelligence (CQ) can be defined as having the capability to work across cultures. Cultures and subcultures can be formed of geography, faith, hobbies, professions, organisation, age and gender. In a society where working across cultures is the norm, how well do you navigate and interpret each culture’s mannerisms, gestures, speech patterns, shared histories and values?
Experts say that one element common in both emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence is the ability to suspend judgement. While rote learning from corporate training courses on culture can serve as an introduction, it is advised to observe the behavioural patterns of a particular group or person first before trying to attempt to anticipate their reactions.
Whether you are working in or managing an unfamiliar culture, setbacks and gaffes are not uncommon. Cross-cultural skills are best developed through exposure and trial and error. One recent study suggests it only takes a reasonable amount self-awareness, empathy, perseverance and motivation to reach an acceptable level of cultural intelligence – skills not uncommon in other areas of work. If you can empathise with your counterpart and put yourself in his or her position, it will be easier for you to understand and interpret their behaviour.
Employees with a high level of cultural intelligence are able to bridge cultural gaps with ease. They tend to better at integrating information from different areas of the organisation, able to consider issues from multiple perspectives and to think of creative solutions by pooling information and resources from diverse areas.