Measuring and improving cultural intelligence

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Aug 01 2016 by David Livermore Print This Article

The research behind cultural intelligence (CQ) continues to expand. To date, we’ve surveyed over 58,000 individuals from 98 countries and some of the current studies underway offer fascinating, new insights into some of the complexities of working and relating interculturally.

However, the core of our work, both empirical and applied, continues to be built around the four capabilities of cultural intelligence. The following represents some of the evolution in how we are currently discussing and applying these capabilities along with some useful books and video clips for diving in further or introducing them to others.

CQ Drive

Interest, drive, and confidence to adapt to multicultural situations.

CQ Drive gets at how you FEEL about an intercultural scenario. CQ Drive scores predict your capability to persevere when stress and disorientation occur in an intercultural situation. This means taking the time to identify what cultural scenarios are most frustrating and developing strategies for regulating the frustration and stress that often ensue.

Cultural differences become most relevant under the pressures of time and stress. Therefore, global leadership programs and diversity initiatives need to move beyond an emphasis on overly positive pep talks about the benefits of cultural diversity and focus more on helping individuals and teams develop specific strategies to manage attitudes and stress in an intercultural situation.

Read: Curiosity is one of the most important keys to improving CQ Drive. Hollywood producer Brian Grazer’s book A Curious Mind offers some creative approaches to improving curiosity in everyday conversations.

Watch: Android’s Monotune commercial beautifully communicates the power of difference.

CQ Knowledge

Understanding how cultures are similar and different.

CQ Knowledge is what you UNDERSTAND about the cultures involved in a situation. The CQ Knowledge scores predict your understanding and self-directed learning in the midst of a cross-cultural engagement.

Today’s students and workforce need more than simplistic generalizations about Latinos versus Chinese or tips on how to exchange business cards. Instead, they need a more sophisticated approach to learning how to identify cultural differences on the spot when they encounter them. Global leadership programs and diversity initiatives need to focus more on helping individuals develop self-directed learning practices to gain the understanding needed.

Read: The Culture Map, by Erin Meyer draws on others’ research to provides a practical introduction to seven cultural value differences.

And check out her online tool for a first step in mapping cultural values:

Watch: Derek Sivers’ “Weird or Just Different” TED talk is an ideal introduction to CQ Knowledge

CQ Strategy

Awareness and ability to plan for multicultural situations.

CQ Strategy is how you PLAN and interpret an intercultural encounter. CQ Strategy scores predict the degree to which you will accurately anticipate and make sense of what’s going on.

This is perhaps the most valuable component that has emerged from the CQ research. CQ Strategy (meta-cognition) provides a way to strategically work through the many nuances and complexities of intercultural situations. Global leadership programs and diversity initiatives need to focus on helping individuals create “If-Then” strategies for working and relating interculturally.

An “If-Then” strategy is deciding in advance, possible ways to respond in the midst of an intercultural situation. For example, if a business associate insists I get drunk, what can I do? Or if a faculty member makes a racist statement, how will I respond? The more individuals anticipate culturally intelligent strategies upfront, the more likely they are to engage in a way that’s culturally intelligent.

Read: My newest book, Driven by Difference, is primarily devoted to the application of CQ Strategy to multicultural teams. Learn the 5D process for strategically using cultural differences to drive innovation.

Watch: This wildly popular video featuring the question, “Where are your from? ” is an ideal way to demonstrate what happens when you have CQ Drive and CQ Knowledge without CQ Strategy.

CQ Action

Ability to adapt when working and relating interculturally.

CQ Action is what you actually DO when you’re in an intercultural situation. CQ Action scores predict the degree to which you will appropriately adapt while not over-adapting or compromising your self or the organization you represent.

Over adapting to another culture is inauthentic and often reduces the power of cultural differences. However, some adaptation is usually required. Global leadership programs and diversity initiatives need to move beyond teaching do’s and don’ts and focus on specific strategies that equip the individual to retain personal and organizational values and contributions while adapting just enough to be respective and effective.

Read Global Dexterity by Andy Molinsky is the best book I’ve come across for providing practical, research-based suggestions for adapting (and not adapting) behavior.

Watch Amy Walker’s demonstration of 21 different English accents is a fun way to introduce adapting your communication.

CQ Predicts Performance

One of the most promising developments emerging from the research on cultural intelligence over the last five years had been a number of studies that predict performance based on an individual’s CQ. For example, an individual’s CQ Drive and CQ Action predict how the individual will perform when directly encountering individuals from an unfamiliar cultural background. However CQ Knowledge and CQ Strategy are more indicative of an individual’s performance when their interactions are more indirect (e.g. developing policies or products that will be used by culturally diverse users.)

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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.