Cultural Intelligence Is A Competitive Advantage

Cultural faux pas happen to all of us, ranging from the minor misstep on holiday all the way up to the scandalous – like when President Nixon gave the finger to Brazil by waving the “a-ok” sign from the steps of Air Force One.

Whilst your red face might reasonably be disguised as holiday sunburn, in business, such blunders are long-lasting and could be detrimental to the global prospects of your organisation.

The ability to relate and work effectively across different cultures, as measured by the cultural quotient or ‘CQ’, has been boldly branded as the new workplace EQ due to its elevated importance in our globalised working environment. Introduced by Christopher Early and Soon Ang in 2003, it has since evolved from an academic construct to a critical business asset that is key to effective conduct with global partners, clients, and team members.

Corporate HR managers and Learning and Development leads should take note that employees who perform well in their home culture struggle the most when forced to adapt to foreign best practices and customs. Your star employee might thrive in their native environment but studies suggest that they are most likely to have low CQ. Perhaps unsurprisingly, cultural ‘outsiders’ like refugees and migrants are more likely to possess skills related to CQ because they are “used to being observers and making a conscious effort to fit in”.

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