What is CQ?
It should come as no surprise that the actions, gestures, and speech patterns a person encounters in a foreign business setting are subject to a wide range of interpretations, which can lead to misunderstandings. But occasionally an outsider has a seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures in just the way that person’s compatriots and colleagues would, even to mirror them. We call that cultural intelligence or CQ. In a world where crossing boundaries is routine, CQ becomes a vitally important aptitude and skill.
Cultural intelligence: an outsider’s seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures the way that person’s compatriots would. Companies, too, have cultures, often very distinctive; anyone who joins a new company spends the first few weeks deciphering its cultural code. Within any large company there are sparring subcultures as well: the sales force can’t talk to the engineers, and the PR people lose patience with the lawyers. Departments, divisions, professions, geographical regions—they all have a host of manners, meanings, histories, and values that will confuse the interloper and cause him or her to stumble. Unless, that is, he or she has a high CQ.
Cultural intelligence is related to emotional intelligence, but it picks up where emotional intelligence leaves off. A person with high emotional intelligence grasps what makes us human and at the same time what makes each of us different from one another. A person with high cultural intelligence can somehow tease out of a person’s or group’s behaviour those features that would be true of all people and all groups, as well as those peculiar to this person or this group.
Share your Cultural Intelligence experiences.
Adapted from an article by P. Christopher Earley and Elaine Mosakowski, Harvard Business Review