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The Importance of Cultural Intelligence

The Farmer School of Business is committed to ensuring its graduates are “BEYOND READY” for their lives and careers. The world is becoming increasingly diverse and complex. Within this environment, effective use of diversity within the workforce has proven to impact positively on both organizational and individual performance. According to the latest McKinsey report on Diversity and Inclusion. embracing different cultures and viewpoints drives innovation, improves decision-making, increases employee productivity and retention, and leads to higher profitability.

However, when working in culturally diverse organizations, most people struggle to communicate and work effectively. The key to being BEYOND READY to adapt to rapidly-changing and diverse environments is Cultural Intelligence [CQ].

The Farmer School of Business is developing students who are BEYOND READY for the complex business environment that awaits them in the workplace, marketplace, and society. The BEYOND READY CQ program is designed to provide students with a unified strategy and skill set for how to relate and work across cultural differences at home and abroad. All components of the program will be available as curricular offerings to Farmer School of Business students. 

The Importance of Cultural Intelligence

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is an individual’s capability to adapt and function effectively in different cultural environments and situations characterized by cultural diversity. Adaptability is about keeping an open mind, willingness to innovate, taking risks, allowing yourself to make mistakes and learn from them; it’s about practicing feeling comfortable with the uncomfortable. Cultural intelligence is especially important in stressful situations, often experienced when dealing with those who are different in any number of ways including demographic traits such as race, age, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, and cognitive traits such as thinking preferences, values, and cognitive abilities.

As such, our goal is to prepare students for differences that go beyond traditional definitions of “diversity”.  We must prepare our students for differences that are may not be readily-observable but must be observed for effective innovation, problem-solving, decision-making, collaboration and communication; those differences that exist between any two people and within any group of people, regardless of their own demographic traits.

What is Cultural Intelligence [CQ]? 

Descriptions of the four CQ componentsCultural intelligence can be divided into four CQ capabilities: motivation (CQ Drive), cognition (CQ Knowledge), meta-cognition (CQ Strategy) and behavior (CQ Action). The four capabilities stem from the intelligence-based approach to intercultural adjustment and performance.

Most notably, Cultural intelligence is not innate: students can develop it, along with other key work skills, when provided with an awareness of the four factors of Cultural Intelligence and how each factor contributes to cultural adaptability.

More than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles by scholars and research teams from all over the world document the scientific knowledge about Cultural intelligence. CQ is related to emotional intelligence (EQ), but it goes a step further. People with high emotional intelligence can pick up on the emotions, wants, and needs of others. Those with high cultural intelligence are attuned to the values, beliefs, attitudes, and body language of people from different cultures; and they use this knowledge to interact with empathy and understanding. People with high cultural intelligence are not experts in every culture; rather, they use observation, empathy, and intelligence to read people and situations, and to make informed decisions about why others are acting as they are. They also use cultural intelligence to monitor their own actions. Rather than making quick judgments or relying on stereotypes, individuals with high cultural intelligence observe what is happening, and adapt their own behavior accordingly.

While workplaces are becoming more diverse, research has shown that diverse teams underperform homogeneous teams if the team has low cultural intelligence.


Farmer School of Business

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