International growth and cultural intelligence

May 08 2012 by David Livermore Print This Article

Economic recessions have typically been times when organizations scale back their global expansion. Not this time. The economic downturn is actually spurring companies to become more international.

Executives from every region recognize that the greatest opportunities for growth exist beyond domestic borders.

In fact, a recently-released report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, found that 90% of executives surveyed predict their company's number of overseas clients will increase in the next three years.

Some 77% of these same executives believe they will have an operational presence in more countries than they do today. Yet the same group of respondents agree that misunderstandings rooted in cultural differences are the biggest obstacle to effective expansion across borders.

One way many organizations are responding to this challenge is by assessing their team's cultural intelligence, or CQ - a researched-based measurement of one's effectiveness across various cultural contexts. The assessments measure four capabilities:

  1. CQ Drive: the interest, drive, and motivation to adapt cross-culturally
  2. CQ Knowledge: the understanding of cultural similarities and differences
  3. CQ Strategy: the ability to plan and be aware in light of culturally diverse situations
  4. CQ Action: the flexibility to adapt one's behavior when needed in a cross-cultural situation

But simply taking an inventory of one's strengths and weaknesses in these areas does little by itself. What's the significance of scoring "high" in CQ Drive and low in another area?

Research reveals some interesting answers to the "So What" question. Here are the results of high CQ in various areas:

Read more about these findings in this article from the Management and Organization Review.

Culturally intelligent teams are more productive and innovative and they build a positive reputation for themselves and their organization. They naturally possess a broader knowledge of current world trends and thus their decisions and day-to-day operations are based upon a stronger grasp of relevant issues.

Moreover, 90% of the senior executives surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit believe increased cultural intelligence among personnel will improve profits and revenues. Nandita Gurja of Infosys in India says, "We are a global company. We simply cannot progress without the knowledge and experience to deal with other cultures."

Expanding internationally brings a number of risks, including legal liabilities, unpredictable situations, and an increased complexity to your operations. But when handled by a culturally intelligent team, it offers the brightest opportunity for growth and innovation in this economically volatile climate.

[More information about CQ Assessments available here.]

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About The Author

David Livermore
David Livermore

David Livermore is a thought leader in cultural intelligence (CQ) and global leadership and the author of "Leading with Cultural Intelligence". He is president and partner at the Cultural Intelligence Center in East Lansing, Michigan and a visiting research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.