Have you ever thought about the concept of Cultural Intelligence (CQ)? Why do we need Cultural Intelligence (CQ)? Why is Cultural Intelligence (CQ) crucial in the outcome of business discussions and negotiations?

What is Cultural Intelligence?

We are a conglomeration of many diverse communities, cultures, values and norms, backgrounds and beliefs, languages, and religions. Each of us seek our personal view of the world – a proper way to receive information (be it human actions, someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures or speech patterns encounters), processing, and making decisions. We call that cultural intelligence or CQ, defined as “a person’s capability for successful adaptation to new cultural settings.” In a world where globalization has opened the way for human interaction, CQ becomes a vital aptitude and skill not just for leaders, but for international bankers, managers, negotiation practitioners and more. However, for most of us, we might have heard of CQ but do not have an in-depth understanding or might find it foreign.

On Cultural Intelligence

Cultural intelligence is a new construct introduced and developed by Professors Christopher Earley and Soon Ang in their 2003 book of the same name. In essence, Cultural Intelligence, also known as Cultural Quotient (CQ), which is derived from the now well-established notion of Intelligence Quotient (IQ), is related to Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Cognitive Intelligence (IQ), and Social Intelligence (SQ) because it assumes familiarity with cultural context, but it goes a step further. It is likely a combination of all these elements, striving to assess the capability of individuals to adapt to new, unfamiliar cultural settings successfully. In short, it measures how we behave in diverse situations.

Individuals who repeatedly ask “Why do we need Cultural Intelligence?” should know that developing CQ concept allows one to be attuned to the values, beliefs, and attitudes of people from different cultures, and respond with informed empathy and real understanding.

CQ consists out of 4 quadrants – Your Drive, Knowledge, Strategy, and Action. Here is an example of how we can build a strategy or an action plan to measure your own CQ or your team’s CQ.

The important thing is to accept other cultures, or if you cannot do that, at least make an effort to understand them, not just stop at “Those people are weird!”
– From Naoko Araki’s book

The importance of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) in negotiations

Cross-cultural negotiations can potentially be most complex because cultural barriers can easily cause misunderstandings that impede effective interactions. Nevertheless, international best practices has shown us that individuals with the ability to negotiate effectively across culture are able to improve the business relationship and organizational performance. Cultural intelligence, a newly introduced term to the business world and implemented during cross-cultural interaction, can be considered the key to success in the field of negotiation. It facilitates better understanding between differences between cultures to provide benefit to all. 

Also, many practitioners have claimed that negotiators with higher CQ have more cooperative motives and will engage in more effective integrative negotiation processes, which will allow them to achieve higher joint profits.  Without making quick judgments or falling back on stereotypes, they can interpret “what is happening in any cultural setting and adjust their behavior accordingly”.

In summary, there are many reasons why CQ is a crucial factor in negotiations.  Firstly, CQ facilitates effective interaction between people of different cultures and understanding of cultural differences. CQ could also provide insights into the culture of every organization to explore opportunities towards win-win solutions. Secondly, CQ allows one to be more attuned to the values, norms, beliefs, and attitudes of people from different cultures to create a culturally intelligent perspective and to respond with informed empathy and real understanding.

Finally, in intercultural negotiation it is essential to avoid making assumptions or generalizations based on any single aspect. Here’s one example: let’s imagine being in a multilateral business negotiation with an American, a Chinese, an Australian, a Norwegian, and an Arabian stockbroker. Do these individuals behave the way they do because they are Americans or Chinese; because they’re stockbrokers or because they come from different cultures and have their norms, assumptions, or belief? Or is it because they are a millennial, or an introvert? Do they have a tendency to be tough, canny negotiators, or almost the complete opposite? It is likely a combination of all these elements, so it is vital to avoid making assumptions or generalizations based on any single aspect.

Moreover, as  Professor Zhenzhong Ma has mentioned in his unique research, it is essential” to put yourself in others’ shoes” to create a culturally intelligent perspective.

Professor Zhenzhong Ma from the Odette School of Business on putting oneself in another person’s shoes to create a culturally intelligent perspective. Photo via Research Gate.

Edited by Michelle Lim (9th January 2020, 00:06)

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Ana Damaschin

Ana Damaschin

Senior Researcher, The Nagaoka Review