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Coping with National, Corporate and Vocational Cultures

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Cultural Intelligence

Summary of Cultural Intelligence. Abstract

Christopher Earley (2004)

Elaine Mosakowski (2004)

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the ability to cope with national, corporate and vocational cultures as described by Christopher Earley and Elaine Mosakowski in HBR of October 2004. CQ is the ability to make sense of unfamiliar contexts and then blend in. They describe three sources of CQ:

  1. The Head /  Cognitive (rote learning about the beliefs, customs, and taboos of foreign cultures, the approach corporate training programs tend to favor, will never prepare a person for every situation that arises, nor will it prevent terrible gaffes),

  2. The Body / Physical (you will not disarm your foreign hosts, guests, or colleagues simply by showing you understand their culture; your actions and demeanor must prove that you have already to some extent entered their world), and

  3. The Heart / Emotional/motivational (Adapting to a new culture involves overcoming obstacles and setbacks. People can do that only if they believe in their own efficacy).

While it shares many of the properties of emotional intelligence, CQ goes one step further by equipping a person to distinguish behaviors produced by the culture in question from behaviors that are peculiar to particular individuals and those found in all human beings.

 

Why is CQ important? In an increasingly diverse business environment, managers must be able to navigate through the thicket of habits, gestures, and assumptions that define their coworkers’ differences. Foreign cultures are everywhere—in other countries, certainly, but also in corporations, vocations, and regions. Interacting with individuals within them demands perceptiveness and adaptability. And the people who have those traits in abundance aren’t necessarily the ones who enjoy the greatest social success in familiar settings.
 

The people who are socially the most successful among their peers often have the greatest difficulty making sense of, and then being accepted by, cultural strangers. Those who fully embody the habits and norms of their native culture may be the most alien when they enter a culture not their own. Sometimes, people who are somewhat detached from their own culture can more easily adopt the mores and even the body language of an unfamiliar host. They’re used to being observers and making a conscious effort to fit in.

Earley and Mosakowski conclude that anyone reasonably alert, motivated, and poised can attain an acceptable CQ, recommending a 6 step approach to cultivating your CQ:

  1. Examine your CQ strengths and weaknesses in order to establish a starting point

  2. Select training that focuses on your weaknesses

  3. Apply this training

  4. Organize support in own organization

  5. Enter the cultural setting, starting with focus on strengths

  6. Reevaluation (360º), possibly define further training


Compare with Cultural Intelligence:  Emotional Intelligence  |  Cultural Dimensions  |  Social Intelligence  |  Framing  |  Levels of Culture  |  Changing Organizational Cultures  |  Path-Goal Theory  |  Contingency Theory

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