Cultural Intelligence

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Coping with national cultures, corporate cultures and vocational cultures. Explanation of Cultural Intelligence of Earley and Mosakowski. ('04)


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Cultural IntelligenceCultural Intelligence (CQ) is the ability to cope with national, corporate and vocational cultures as described by Christopher Earley and Elaine Mosakowski in HBR of October 2004. CQ is the ability to understand unfamiliar contexts, and then to adjust. They describe three sources of Cultural Intelligence.

Three sources of Cultural Intelligence

  1. The Head /  Cognitive. Rote learning about the beliefs, habits and taboos of foreign cultures, will not work well.

  2. The Body / Physical. You will not disarm your foreign hosts, guests, or colleagues simply by showing you understand their culture; your actions and demeanor must prove that you have already to some extent entered their world.

  3. The Heart / Emotional/motivational. To adjust to a new culture involves overcoming obstacles and setbacks. People can do that only if they believe in their own efficacy.

While it shares many of the properties of emotional intelligence, Cultural Intelligence goes one step further by equipping a person to distinguish behaviors produced by the culture in question from behaviors that are peculiar to particular individuals and those found in all human beings.

Importance of Cultural Intelligence

Why Cultural Intelligence? In an increasingly diverse business environment, managers must be able to navigate through the thicket of habits, gestures, and assumptions that define their coworkers' differences. Foreign cultures are everywhere. In other countries, certainly, but also in corporations, vocations, and regions. Interacting with individuals within them demands sensitivity and adaptability. And the people who have those traits in abundance, are not necessarily the ones, who enjoy the greatest social success in familiar settings.

The people who are socially the most successful among their friends, often have the greatest difficulty to understand cultural strangers, and to be accepted by them. Those who fully embody the habits and norms of their native culture, may be the most alien when they enter another culture. Sometimes, somewhat detached people from their own culture, can more easily adopt the habits and even the body language of an unfamiliar host. They are natural observers, and easily make a conscious effort to fit in.

Growing your Cultural Intelligence

Earley and Mosakowski conclude that anyone who is reasonably alert, motivated and poised, can attain an acceptable CQ. They recommend a 6 step approach to cultivating your cultural intelligence:

  1. Examine your CQ strengths and weaknesses. In this way you establish a starting point.

  2. Select training that focuses on your weaknesses.

  3. Apply this training.

  4. Organize support in own organization.

  5. Enter the cultural setting. Start with a focus on your strengths.

  6. Reevaluate (360°). Possibly define further training.

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Cultural Intelligence Education & Events

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Best Practices - Cultural Intelligence Premium
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Expert Tips - Cultural Intelligence Premium

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Resources - Cultural Intelligence Premium

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Books about Cultural Differences AdaptSign up


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Compare with Cultural Intelligence:  Emotional Intelligence  |  Cultural Dimensions  |  Culture Types  |  Social Intelligence  |  Framing  |  Levels of Culture  |  Coaching  |  Mentoring  |  Changing Organizational Cultures  |  Path-Goal Theory  |  Contingency Theory  |  Attribution Theory

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