Establishing Cultural Intelligence in Organizations

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Cultural Intelligence > Best Practices > Establishing Cultural Intelligence in Organizations

Establishing Cultural Intelligence in Organizations
Marcel Wiedenbrugge, Consultant, Netherlands, Member
It all depends on the organizational culture and how an organization communicates this among its employees.
Keep it stupid simple, choose the right people (cultural fit) for your organization. And before they start to work, give them a training in company goals, company structure, communication, collaboration and explain what your global company values truly mean in a cross-functional and cross-cultural manner.
A lot of companies simply don´t work this way, they just focus on getting the job done.

Culture and Climate, Strengths and Weaknesses
Patrick Kinane, Management Consultant, United States, Member
I will agree with most of the article but an organization is composed of more than culture. Organizational culture is how things are done, representing reality. Climate is what people think of the way things are operated representing collective conscience. And control which are the rules and policies representing the way things should be done, the ideal. When all are aligned we have synergy and a well run organization.
My last and final point in the 6 steps states to examine the strengths and weaknesses and then concentrate on the weaknesses. This is a fallacy that many organizations have fallen into. They concentrate on the weaknesses believing the strengths will take care of themselves and what happens is that the strengths turn into weaknesses. You never get out of the spiral of reactionary management and progress to proactive management.

Senior Execs Should Focus on Strengths
Jane Farran, Business Consultant, United States, Member
I agree with Patrick Kinane's point about the fallacy in focusing on weaknesses. A company certainly has to support a manager in developing beyond weaknesses, but focusing equally on strengths is critical.
Beyond a point of seniority, a leader is best advised to focus almost entirely on becoming nuanced and effective with his/her strengths.

Establishing Cultural Intelligence in Organizations
Daniel Verheyen
I agree with Marcel Wiedenbrugge that you have to select the right people at first and then introduce them to the company's strategy and core values. However what happens when your company takes over another company? You do not have the possibility to select the people for the job and they might have another company culture besides possibly also cultural differences (if it's a foreign company).
For example a western (non)-profit organization realized a hospital in Korea, however the patients stayed away. What did they do wrong? They had provided state of the art equipment, everything was clean and proper... Later it seemed to be the cultural difference of non-verbal communication; the building simply had the wrong colour, it was white (in Korea the colour of death), when they repainted it in light blue, they started receiving patients.

First Cognition of a Foreign Culture
I think to get cognition of a foreign culture first is very important. This does require some rote learning.

Socio-cultural Environment in Organizations
D P BABU, Strategy Consultant, India, Member
No doubt that organizations are social systems embedded with social and cultural values. Organization development processes also should include cultural diagnosis and devising tools and techniques for instilling a healthy working culture upholding social and human values. Of course, culture creates homeliness in organizational functions.

Cultural Intelligence and RESPECT
Manepalli Vinay Babu, Partner, India, Member
Cultural intelligence in any organisation revolves around every individual embracing the core values of the organisation. Values like "down to earth and approchable" and "mutual respect & transparency" would mean that every colleague in the organisation must be respected as a "human being" and hence "non performance" does not warrant a public humiliation/dismissal but realignment of the individual with what he can deliver better with his levels of skill sets.
This can be understood only if the individual goes into gaining "cultural nuances" for which there has to be wider acceptance of the fact that no two individuals are the same. A good article for the professional circuit.

Think Global, Act Local
Madan Gopal Agarwal, Business Consultant, India, Member
Successful global organizations have taught the golden rule for success as 'Think global, act local'. This needs to be understood as:
- THINK GLOBAL - means thinking, beliefs and value system of the organization as a whole), plus
- ACT LOCAL - means adapting this global thinking, beliefs and value system to each of the diverse cultures without neglecting local customs, traditions and behaviors.
Management philosophy and HR practices play a vital role in making this into a success.

Cultural Intelligence Starts with 'Inviting'
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
From the 'supple' to the 'soft' through the 'hard' to the 'obnoxious' from the 'palatable (Ed: ~acceptable) ' to the 'unpalatable' - cultural intelligence is only palpable (Ed: ~realistic) if one seeks to 'invite' another, begins by being supple gradually moving towards the unpalatable while being sincerely honest and honestly simple in this relationships of varying cultural manifestations.

Building Cultural Intelligence
Moise Mungala Tshimbu, Congo, Democratic Republic of the, Member
I do appreciate the content of this article and the wave of comments it raises worldwide.
In my opinion, the starting point consists in getting to know not only your CQ strengths and weaknesses but also the social environment you are in.
Moreover, selecting the training is not enough. Someone should go beyond and learn from best practices & values from his/her own as well as from other similar business cultures.

Cultural Intelligence is About Adapting to Differences
Ray Roberts, Management Consultant, United Kingdom, Member
Cultural intelligence is an interesting concept only in that it relates to the "degree" of difference between individuals. Every individual in an organisation has different backgrounds, mores, beliefs, experiences, perspectives etc. And we learn to work together in teams, with differing degrees of success. Call me simplistic if you like but people are people and only by getting to know them by engaging them can you begin to develop an appropriate relationship with that person. People adapt their behaviours to whatever is expected by the culture they are propelled into. This is true whether we talk about business, local or national culture.

Cultural Intelligence in Mergers
Marcel Wiedenbrugge, Consultant, Netherlands, Member
To Daniel Verheyen. In mergers often typical (human) issues arise due to the differences in company cultures. However, there are some good examples which show that this doesn't have to be the case.
For example in 2009 Amazon bought Zappos. One of the main reasons why this merger was successful was because the company culture of both companies perfectly matched to one another.
People are usually afraid that they will lose their cultural identity once they have been taken over (especially in hostile take overs). If companies would practice more due diligence on cultural fit as well, the level of success of a merger can be much higher.
There are also good examples in the IT industry, such as IBM. As long as a merger takes place on open and honest terms, people should get the opportunity to get to know each other (as Arif correctly suggests) alongside good education, preparation and sharing commonly shared goals and values.

Cultural Intelligence and the Will to Equate
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
Marcel's observation where success 'emerges' because of cultural overlap between 2 organizations in a merger, by extension also demands the will to equate on equitable terms of both 'teaching' and 'learning' of the cultural equation.

Constant Learning Needed
A.J. Heideman, Management Consultant, Netherlands, Member
If we agree on the statement that CQ is largely developed by cognitive means, physical means and motivational means it's evident that a constant learning and awareness-process is mandatory. Any change in any form in any organisation will have its impact on CQ. A constant learning organisation on the subject is necessary. This attitude should be supported by all levels in the organisation.

Merging of Organizational and Societal Habits
C.J. Mlilo, Manager, Member
I think the key lies in a smooth, compatible merging of habits that are common to both the organization and the society or individual, and then trying to model a culture that allows diversity to be tolerated within an organization.

Personal Sub-cultures
Lien Nguyen, Student (MBA), Viet Nam, Member
Though it is vital for anybody doing business internationally to have some level of cultural intelligence, it is a fact that sub-cultures exist in different people, apart from all the common values of their own region or organisation.
Some people are easy to change and therefore they can adapt to any working environment and business culture; some others however are difficult to change; and the rest of the people find it impossible to change, so business culture means nothing to them.
Therefore, leaders must be able to read and use the right people in the right places. However, this can't be done in a short time.

Cultural Report
Marcel Wiedenbrugge, Consultant, Netherlands, Member
As a suggestion, wouldn't it be interesting if (international) companies would issue a cultural report (next to the standard financial reporting), where they describe how collaboration and communication across the organization is effectively working out?
In a cultural report a company cannot only define what its (corporate) values and goals are, but also how employees from different countries and cultural backgrounds translate this into practice. As such this would be a report made for and made by all members of an organization. Which could help people in organizations to better understand each other, leading to better overall communication, collaboration, performance and results.

CQ Deficit, the Difference Between Royal Dutch Shell and Others
felix owolabi, Student (University), United Kingdom, Member
The difference between a multinational company that has stood the test of time and that which has fizzled out or simply struggling with globalization is cultural intelligence.
Organisations such as Royal Dutch Shell, the largest energy company in the world and the second largest company in the world with presence in over 90 countries and employs over 100,000 employees. Shell's strength majors on incorporating an organisational learning culture with a core value of prioritised local diversities entrenched in differences in religions, languages, beliefs and traditions which are applied or considered in its entire objectives and operations.
Organisations who are bent on maintaining their own culture or even sholve their own culture on others have continued to face decline in all ramifications. Marks and Spencer, a UK-based clothing and luxury food retailer is an example of this, as they continue to give preferences to Israel where fruit importation is concerned.

Organizations are Melting Pots
Ochora Onek, Student (MBA), Uganda, Member
Reading through the comments, one thing that can be pointed out is that a culture which is identifiable to an organization is in effect a shade of the different cultures of the employees of the organizations.
And like open ended integers, new individuals joining the organizations, will be adopted by bringing in a little of their own culture and shedding some. Just like Daniel Verheyen noted in the Korean culture, the reverse would hold true if a Korean migrated to a foreign land, he/she would adapt to using white painted medical facilities while retaining some of his/her culture.

Establishing Cultural Intelligence in Organisation
Dr.S.K.Baral, Director, India, Member
Successful interaction across cultures requires cultural intelligence. Several aspects of cultural intelligence in organizations include suspending your judgement until enough information about a person becomes available, paying attention to the situation and matching the personal & organizational attributes.

Cultural versus Organizational Intelligence
Mohamad Nasir Mahmood, Director, Malaysia, Member
Organizational intelligence can be defined as the needs and requirements, the terms and conditions, and the standards and policies that spur and become the fulcrums for an organization to grow and succeed.
Meanwhile, cultural intelligence can be defined as how an organization manages itself in adjusting, capitalizing as well as exploiting the culture of its host country to grow and succeed.
Between the two, 'to grow and to succeed' is common denominator.
The proper blend between the two can possibly enable the organization to meet its goals and objectives sooner rather than later.

Cultural Fit in Hiring Phase
Marcel Wiedenbrugge, Consultant, Netherlands, Member
There are some wonderful comments here. Let me share one simple example from my own experience. This example shows why cultural fit is such an important aspect at the hiring stage.
In the past I was responsible for the service management of a local branch of a global Japanese electronics company. In my daily work I mainly had to deal with our customers (mostly retailers) and colleagues from several departments, among others logistics. Although each colleague had its own responsibilities, we were actually working as team within a team. Although we had certain procedures to deal with various kind of issues, we had created a culture where we dealt with various kind of operational issues in a very natural and practical way. One day one of my (experienced) colleagues left the company and was replaced by a new person that from day one did not fit in the team and working mentality. Although we tried to blend him in, this person acted according to his own agenda, resulting in many mistakes and conflicts. This had a negative impact on internal performance, team spirit and customer satisfaction. Ultimately this new colleague was forced to leave the company.

Cultural Intelligence
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
While endorsing brother Baral's views where 'matching personal and organizational attributes' are mentioned, the best attributes would develop where... altitude must come from attitudes and not necessarily from aptitudes.

Cultural Dexterity
Olga Aros, Consultant, United States, Member
All organizations involved in global enterprises need to assess the cultural dexterity (Ed: ~being skilled) of their organization and its employees. This includes cross-cultural competencies and paradigms that will impact interaction with diverse cultural and working relationships.
Helping employees understand the value of cultural dexterity and competencies is a performance factor if organizations are to grow and prosper in this world.

Culture Intelligence is Continuous Learning Process
Paulkalule, Student (University), Member
We must appreciate that cultural intelligence is a constant and continuous learning process in organisations, societies and communities, both local and international.

Cultural Intelligence and Cultural Dexterity are Both Critical
Olga Aros, Consultant, United States, Member
As a point of note, no matter how much cultural intelligence each individual within your organization receives, unless they also possess the ability to have cultural dexterity, they will not utilize was has been learned. To be successful, the total organization must assess the level of cultural dexterity that it possesses in order to develop appropriate cultural intelligence, usually training, for those who are willing, able and have the capacity to learn, adapt, adopt and perform at a high performance level. Cultural dexterity includes the organization's values, behaviors and expectations, as well as skills sets focused on adaptation.

Learning Languages
Gwande, Project Manager, Zimbabwe, Member
One needs to be a good language learner, accommodating and outgoing. With no knowledge of language, acts or writings that are done in a certain way may not really mean a thing to you.

Balancing Act with Language Learning
Wulf-Dieter Krueger, Teacher, Thailand, Member
Yes indeed, that's a very tricky bit, since learning a language in a technical or academic way only does not get you far if you are not culturally intelligent about the language itself.
Whatever language you learn you simultaneously take in some of its culture. But there are bits that you only can learn in the languages' culture itself, i.e. UK, USA, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey.

The Importance of Language
Marcel Wiedenbrugge, Consultant, Netherlands, Member
I totally agree about the relationship between language and culture, however, learning a language is very time consuming and can be (very) difficult. Personally I speak Dutch, English and German and a little bit of French. I would like to learn Chinese, but unfortunately I do not have enough time available (or motivation). From a practical point of view I think it would be most convenient and efficient if all people in the world would learn two languages: their native language and English. There are simply too many languages.

Learning Languages is Part of CQ
Wulf-Dieter Krueger, Teacher, Thailand, Member
Well, since I speak five languages, but only read 4 and write only 2 and learnt 2 languages informally in situ, i.e. the Netherlands/Belgium and Thailand I would like to point out that being a good listener renders you CQ and even if you start with learning small talk initially for just being polite, speaking the local laguage is a door opener & renders your colleague realising you are interested and the begin to enlightening you as to their culture, provided they have CQ as well.
However, there are some cultures, in Asia, I'm afraid I must say, that believe they are exclusive. In the long run they will not be successful globally.

Balancing the Language Learning Act
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
One of the best translations of the Quran in English comes from Muhammad Asad, a European jew by birth who later on went to embrace Islam. Towards the close of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century Asad travelled the entire belt from Egypt to the present day Pakistan. A greater part of his journeys concentrated around Arabia where he met, loved and lived with the raw and rustic arabs. He even took onto an arab bride. But then he learnt the nicecities and the finer threads of the Arabic language and grammar. This gave a new dimension to his outstanding translation.
We may not be as lucky as Asad, but the idea I am trying to bring home is to really 'balance' the language learning act you have to 'breath' and 'imbibe' the culture.

The Importance of Language
A.J. Heideman, Management Consultant, Netherlands, Member
There are good reasons to learn a foreign language. If you do business it's very comfortable if you speak and/or understand the language of your customers. Learning the language, even basically, will automatically give you an insight in the culture and tradition of your customers country. It's a way of showing your respect for other cultures and that is practically always appreciated. It opens the door more easily.

Importance of Language
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
Absolutely, AJH! Our problems tend to emerge - in the global context - when even after having learnt the customer's language and cultural associations we very often tend to have our way -- because deep down we continue to believe in our language's superiority.

Importance of Language
Wulf-Dieter Krueger, Teacher, Thailand, Member
To Arif Your Rehman
The more languages you learn, and the deeper you get into them, the more this fades out, because you internalise several cultures rendering you more flexible and adaptable. The crunch being, however: is the monolingual/bilingual environment able/willing to accept this and does it regard this as an enrichment for itself or as a challenge?
In the environment that I am in at the moment I often have the feeling it is seen as a challenge and they try to enforce their ways on me. Thus it often me who goes out of the way of unnecessary confrontations and CQ is becoming a one-way situation. Then it becomes difficult to work in such an environment, where the main focus is on 'face saving' preventing openness.

Importance of Language / Concept of 'face'
Marcel Wiedenbrugge, Consultant, Netherlands, Member
The concept of 'face' is very typical for Asia, but actually it exists everywhere. I believe that the basic drivers in human behavior are primarily the same everywhere. We all prefer to be treated in a honest and respectful away. As with trust and relationships, it doesn't come overnight, it simply needs time to grow. A language can help you to integrate into a society or culture faster / easier, but it is not a guarantee for success. That merely depends on your social, communicative and collaborative skills.

Cultural Intelligence and the Workplace
Mrs. Josephine Idele, Partner, Nigeria, Member
In today's business environment and even outside the business settings, cultural intelligence is here to stay since we must interact with people from diverse cultural background in our daily interations, we have to be sensitive to each other culture and try to accommodate the other person's totality of his/her personality since they are a product of their environment and cultural settings. Cultural intelligence is the ability to have people skills, easily mingling with others from different cultures without offending their sensitivity in anyway through words spoken, body language, or facial expressions (still part of body language). Simply put, it is possessing multicultural soft skills in the workplace and beyond.

Reasons for Cultural Change in Organizations
Olga Aros, Consultant, United States, Member
The idea that people will automatically change and embrace other cultures through training only is not realistic.
There are also business reasons and incentives to do so.
Those who cannot change will eventually be compelled to change as the overall organizational values promoting diversity become a part of the fabric of the organization. If not, they will become dinosaurs and will become ineffective and extinct.
Executives need to be aware of what occurs within the overall organization as cultural intelligence takes hold and changes the values of the organization. This change should be done intentful with a clear vision of the future and its implications. All should be aligned by utilizing cultural intelligence as one tool for alignment.

Wulf-Dieter Krueger, Teacher, Thailand, Member
Absolutely right. However, what do you do, if your students embrace change and your native colleagues and superiors don't? Sooner or later the students will start to challenge the dinosaurs and they in turn will remove those who taught the students to challenge.

Techno-cultural Shared Values
Daniel Newton Obaka
Olga, you seem to be seeing the future as it is unfolding through the ever evolving information technology. The choice that humans have now is to rethink the future or to be forced to rethink the future. Choosing the option to rethink the future provide us a better chance of surviving and thriving in the turbulent terrain-techno-cultural world. We are already seeing the collapse of linear thinking. The techno-era is a discontinuous entity that demands adaption to change or be ready to be swallowed up in the process. Now, without seeing Japanese from Japan, Nigerians from Nigeria, the Americans from America, Britons from Britain, and Israeli from Israel, interact and exchange goods and services. Wow- a cultural share value emerging in business organizations indeed. We're able to go to meetings from one's living room and exchanging ideas through the platform. In Huxley's ' brave new world' of information creating the 8th continent with its own characteristics-techno-cultural values? Think about this.

Marcel Wiedenbrugge, Consultant, Netherlands, Member
I think Daniel's observation is a very interesting one and - in my opinion - spot on. Technology in general, but especially communication through the internet enables us to communicate, exchange ideas and discuss perceptions with people from different cultural, historical and professional backgrounds. As such we can all learn from each other, which actually enhances our mutual understanding, hence communication. This will ultimately help us all to better collaborate in the future (and that's what I call progress). In my experience I found that people in general have more things in common than there are differences (we all inhabit the same planet). Not knowing those (cultural) differences can be a major source of conflict if those differences are not outspoken or explained. On websites like this one we are enabled to freely express our (individual) visions and opinions, so technology better enables us to overcome the cultural differences and difficulties in communication in an unprecedented manner.

Information Technology
Gwande, Project Manager, Zimbabwe, Member
Information technology has revolutionised communication and as long as people have one common language as is the case here we are all using English the other barriers can be overcome.
Face to face communication can be dangerous at times actually, but where people have linked up already through internet, if they meet face to face it will be a question of cementing the already established business relationship.
However online there is also risk - think of internet dating for example. Meeting a grand dater physically might be a bad experience given the amount of expectation that will have been built.

What we Say / How we Act
Marcel Wiedenbrugge, Consultant, Netherlands, Member
I agree with Gwande about expectations. What you or I SAY or WRITE does not necessarily mean that we also ACT accordingly. People may say / think X, but in reality act Y.
However, that's also a matter of good communication. It is the same with customers: customer X expects to receive product Y with Z features, but when communication is poor, this could end up in a wrong delivery which may have a negative impact on future expectations / relations.
As long as we try to be transparent / open about what we mean or intend, I believe most problems between people can be easily solved. So if you say A, you should also do A.

How to Enhance Cultural Intelligence Within Companies?
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands, Moderator
As many people know, there exist a clear positive relationship between cultural exposure and cultural intelligence. Two factors that will result in higher cultural intelligence levels are i) going abroad for educational reasons/ employment, and ii) the deepness of cultural exposure, measured by the number of countries people went to for employment or education. Because of these findings, several suggestions to enhance cultural intelligence within companies are developed:
1: Education: As already mentioned, education abroad is positively related with cultural intelligence; laborers should be encouraged to go abroad to study or to do an internship. Partnering with educational institutions by offering foreign internships and scholarships is a good option and should be used to select potential employees.
2: Training: Firms have to determine the type of training that enhances workers’ cultural intelligence; managers should consider both training in the home country and in the host country. Additional training for those who already have a high level of cultural intelligence should also be made possible.
3: expatriation: Concerning expatriation, firms should hire individuals who have been employed/ studied abroad. Managers should analyze employees’ cultural intelligence level before selecting them for expatriation , since it might reduce common cultural problems that happen during expatriation assignments. Examining holiday experiences abroad might also be useful, since people who often go on holiday to foreign countries generally score high on motivational cultural intelligence, i.e. they are willing to learn more about other cultures.
Source: Crowne, K. A. (2008). “What Leads to Cultural Intelligence”. Business Horizons vol. 51, p391-399.

Steps to Increase your Personal Cultural Intelligence
Olga Aros, Consultant, United States, Member
1. First comes the will to know your own culture
2. Second, the willingness to explore and accept learning about many cultures.
3. Third exploring the organizational culture and look for the "fit"
4. Fourth: adapting to culture and continuous learning through diverse human interaction. Not necessarily technology driven.

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