Cultural Intelligence – How do we get there? Strategy

To develop our CQ Knowledge as individuals and as a community, our STRATEGY needs to be established and expanded. What do we need to do to grow our knowledge of those in our communities who are different from us? And what are our hidden biases that may be contributing to the lack of understanding on our part?

CQ Strategy (meta-cognition) is the degree to which you are mindful, aware, and able to plan for multicultural interactions. Individuals with high CQ Strategy develop ways to use their cultural understanding to develop plans for new intercultural situations.

 This gets us to a more nuanced understanding of how we should interact cross-culturally. If we only improve our CQ Knowledge, we run the risk of stereotyping people. Not all Indians have a “High Power Distance” orientation and not all Swedes have a “Being” orientation.

CQ Strategy helps us move beyond these simplified norms. You can find a humorous video here where stereotyping is exaggerated, making the point to be careful.

            To develop your CQ Strategy, you first need to ask yourself questions. For example, when facing a dilemma, ask what next steps can be used to resolve this challenge? It is also good to think about three different sub-dimensions: planning, awareness, and checking yourself.

Planning means developing a hypothesis or strategizing about what needs to change before a cross-cultural encounter. An example could be thinking about how you’re going to do a performance review differently if the individual comes from a different cultural background. If you are going on a mission trip, think about the possible scenarios you may face and how the other culture may deal with those situations.

 To improve your planning, pick a culture different from yours that you interact with often. Make a brief plan of things to remember that you may need to be say or do differently when relating to someone from a culture different from your own.

Awareness refers to being mindful of what’s going on internally (yourself) and externally (others) during a multicultural encounter. Some questions to ask during the interaction include:

  • How is my plan working?
  • Is this individual behaving the way he/she typically would or is he/she adapting to me?

A good way to develop your awareness is to jot down a few observations immediately following a cross-cultural interaction—things that were different from what you anticipated, things that were unlike when you would do this in your own culture, questions you need to explore further. Be careful to observe. Do not interpret the situation. Yet. (Often interpretations are based on assumptions or hidden biases.)Just observe. Notice things that are different.

What did you observe? What objects do you see? What was different? Use descriptive language.

Then ask yourself, what are some plausible interpretations? Ask the “why” questions.

Become aware of your observations and interpretations.

After doing some planning and increasing awareness, you need to do some checking. This is the degree to which you go back and check your plan, assumptions, and interpretations. You are checking to see whether the plan you made in light of the culture fits what’s going on with this particular group.

To develop your checking, find a cultural broker or coach when doing work in culture other than your own. Discuss your observations with him or her and ask for input. (e.g. “I noticed no one spoke up when I asked the group a question. Why was that?”)

Improve your CQ Strategy. Plan. Develop awareness by noticing and making observations. Avoid mis-interpreting what is going on. And do NOT judge others. Check yourself.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – How do we get there?

There is nothing easy about developing into Culturally Intelligent Communities. However, we can start with five not-so-easy but important steps.

First, we must have the DRIVE, the motivation, to grow and learn. Do we WANT our community to be a thriving, healthy, and safe environment where we can all flourish, using our differences for strength? Are we seeing those around us in need? Are we willing to do the work of becoming culturally intelligent?

Secondly, we need to start thinking with CULTURAL HUMILITY. Are we ready to listen to those who think or act or look differently than us? Are we willing to show respect and honor others’ dignity? Are we willing to think of others more positively? In Philippians 2:3-4, we read:

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Third, once we have drive/motivation and cultural humility, we need to grow in our KNOWLEDGE of the “others” around us. Are we ready to ask good questions to truly learn about those around us who may be or look different? Or act or think differently? Who are those in our community that are different from us? What do we need to learn about them to help us gain empathy and understanding for them?

Fourth, as individuals and as a community, our STRATEGY to increase our knowledge needs to be established and expanded. What do we need to do to grow our knowledge of those in our communities who are different from us? And what are our hidden biases that may be contributing to the lack of understanding on our part?

And fifth, ACTION. We cannot take in information without action. We are created to respond to learning and knowledge by actually doing something to reach out to others. It is also taking time to intentionally think through our reactions to those around us, what our responses might be and how to change them (our responses) so we are more supportive to the others we are reaching out to.

This short video shows four of the five steps I have just laid out from a little different angle and may be helpful for you.