We've learned through deep conversations, corporate training, and statistical research that everyone is living in their own little world. That world is defined by their various backgrounds, life experiences, and belief systems. They have stories that shape the way they view life, the standpoints they take, and the ways they express themselves. The great thing about living in a multicultural environment is that you get to see this contrast from more than one set of people and can compare different topics from different cultural vantage points.
If culture is a complex pattern of behaviours and meanings in our brain, mind, and the world around us, then understanding how the mind works and how it affects our judgment, rationale and beliefs are crucial to developing our ability to work, live and adjust effectively in multicultural environments also known as one's cultural intelligence or CQ.
Cultural intelligence is recognizing and understanding the patterns that make up other cultures and seeing those patterns from different perspectives, and better adapting to those cultural differences. Cultural Intelligence describes the skills required to recognize these differences. It also describes the ability to adapt to the dynamics of various intercultural exchanges.
In an organization, your ability to function effectively in a culturally diverse setting gauges your level of cultural intelligence. An important attribute of the culturally intelligent is considering the beliefs of participating individuals and bringing that into context when making organizational decisions.
"Employees who possess a high level of cultural intelligence play an important role in bridging divides and knowledge gaps in an organization: educating their peers about different cultures; transferring knowledge between otherwise disparate groups; helping to build interpersonal connections, and smooth the interpersonal processes in a multicultural workforce." - forbes.com
What are the four main dimensions of cultural intelligence?
The four main dimensions of cultural intelligence are:
1. Metacognitive (understanding one's thought processes): changes around understanding and assumptions of other cultures after every interaction.
This is a deeper awareness that happens when one begins to recognize the patterns of other cultures and compares them to their own. As a result, you can readily see these patterns beyond what is shown, adjust for them and uphold them with mindfulness instead of negative responses.
2. Cognitive: tangible knowledge of other cultures necessary for active participation and adaptation.
Absorbing more cultural knowledge from little things like handshakes to bigger things like the proper (cultural) way to complete agreements. That becomes necessary if you operate in an international setting where that knowledge would be vital to business outcomes.
3. Motivational: enthusiasm for discovery about different cultures, their differences, values, and perceived benefits. That is a natural curiosity one can develop in themselves about others by finding things you can appreciate about them, beliefs, and values you share even though they may look different on the surface. When people recognize that underlying values are often similar, the result is an increase in empathy and cultural mindfulness.
4. Behavioural: effective use of body language and terminology to communicate appreciation for a particular culture.
When you're able to put this understanding into practice your behaviour changes, and cross-cultural skills demonstrate how well you can adapt to the new methods of a particular culture; how well you can relate to different folks; the degree to which you can tolerate the absence of predictable patterns, and how you can blend all these empathically. This stage is where you begin to assess how well you're immersing and where you could improve.
Cultural Neuroscience and Cultural Intelligence
Cultural neuroscience is a field of study that shows the relationship between a person's culture and the brain. It asks questions like how your culture, environment and beliefs affect how your brain and thought processes function.
Brain science gives us another way of raising self-awareness and how we respond to cultural situations that are uncomfortable or similar. Different studies have shown how culture affects the brain including the biases we form and the beliefs we develop. Culture learning cannot happen unless we understand bias and personal blind spots, and cultural neuroscience helps explain how that works.
We believe that increasing one's cultural intelligence is a solid strategy to combat racially unconscious biases. However, developing a high level of cultural intelligence requires the awareness of one's cognitive responses and the intention to minimize said bias.
“Cultural intelligence helps develop an in-depth understanding of working styles in other cultures. A culturally intelligent workforce will demonstrate better tolerance, trust and understanding of global colleagues.” - tmaworld.com
The value of cultural intelligence in personal and organizational growth is tangible. An organization with a multicultural workforce will benefit creatively, collaboratively and monetarily from different ideas and solutions to achieve company objectives. As a leader or an employee in this globalized world, it is essential to understand and value unique perspectives and approaches to life and business.
Cultural intelligence is that way.
You can book a call with us to find out more about how to help your leaders and employees build cultural intelligence and minimize the bias that gets in the way of building inclusive companies that produce excellent products.