Cultural Intelligence – How do we get there? Knowledge Part Two

As I mentioned last week, after developing our CQ Drive, we should look at our CQ Knowledge. CQ Knowledge (cognition) is your understanding about how cultures are similar and different. Individuals with high CQ Knowledge have a rich, well-organized understanding of culture and how it affects the way people think and behave.

There are four sub-dimensions of CQ Knowledge to be aware of and to develop.[1]

Business/cultural systems is an area which focuses on the degree to which you understand how various cultural systems shape the way we do business and how we interact with people. This includes the understanding of different economic systems, legal practices, religion, art, and the meaning of various cultures and symbols, etc.

What’s wrong with the following photo?

This may be an extreme example, but consider how some other situations might play out:

  • Taking a Hindu colleague to dinner at a place known for their beef dishes.
  • Scheduling a conference call on a Friday with the Middle East office.
  • Setting up shop above a Buddha statue in Thailand.

I suggest you read Expand Your Borders by David Livermore to begin improving your knowledge of Business Cultural Systems.

Interpersonal: cultural values, another sub-dimension of CQ Knowledge, is that which measures the degree to which you have a grasp of the cultural values or dimensions. (I will spend more time in the future discussion cultural dimensions.)

The Socio-linguistics sub-dimension is your understanding of another language and your overall grasp of different uses of language—verbal and nonverbal. This largely relates to your ability to read and understand a language other than your own, but it can also refer to how you use the same language in different cultures (e.g. the same word meaning different things such as “boot” in UK and USA English.)

 Consider the little things when communicating cross-culturally. For example, changing the way you write the date for various contexts (20 March or March 20) or referencing something specific about the person’s context (e.g. Chinese New Year, a recent election, etc.) can demonstrate you’re not just communicating robotically. When emailing, respect cultural differences in relation to how you address people (e.g. “Mr.” versus “John”) and refrain from using slang or abbreviations. It’s best to start more formally.

 The leadership sub-dimension is your understanding of how leadership needs to change for various cultural contexts. Leadership is often taught as if it’s universal. But it isn’t. How a leader works in Korea is different than in Germany which is different than in the UK.

 One way to develop your understanding of different leadership preferences is to poll your team to see how much they want their leaders to provide very specific instructions.

Why think about leadership? You will work with leaders in different contexts, and they will act out of their cultural background. You need to be aware of what’s going on here. For example, this photo is very North American. In other parts of the world, we need to understand there is a clear line of authority that must be respected.

One way to start improving your CQ Knowledge is in your reading or listening, whether blogs or news or a daily Bible reading. When reading (or listening to) blogs or the news, think through what the cultural background of the writer/reporter is, as well as the people and events being reported about. As you read the Bible, think about how the culture of the writer and the audience influenced what was written. And ask yourself, how does your culture influence the way you read it?

[1] Most of this material comes from the Cultural Intelligence Center training materials.