All You Need to Know About Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

Cultural Intelligence (CQ): A Powerful Tool for Success in the Modern Global Workplace

Culture Intelligence or Culture Intelligence Quotient (CQ) is the next evolution of Emotional (EQ) and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and it’s becoming an increasingly important element of organisational success.

What is Cultural Intelligence?

Cultural Intelligence or CQ can be defined as the ability to cross boundaries and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. In the same way people with high EQ find it easier to pick up on the emotions, wants and needs of others, leaders with CQ are attuned to the values, beliefs and attitudes of people from diverse cultures.

Understanding Cultural Intelligence

As per the Cultural Intelligence Center, Cultural Intelligence is not merely about cultural sensitivity and awareness. It goes a step beyond, enabling individuals to strategically use cultural differences to foster innovation. In culturally diverse situations, CQ plays a pivotal role in aspects like personal adjustment, decision making, negotiation effectiveness, leadership effectiveness, and even profitability.

Is Culture IQ
killing or transforming
your business?

Many business leaders don’t know what Culture IQ really is or how to harness it.

And so, in this edition, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on Culture IQ, why it’s important, and how to harness it.

Let’s break that down a little more.

Diversity is a critical component of successful businesses. Diversity in experience, cultures, histories or personalities can create a unique blend of perspectives and insights that grow innovative, competitive ideas.

According to Forbes, the ability to work successfully with people who have different backgrounds and life experiences is crucial, especially in the 21st-century workplace.  

In diverse teams, there’s not only differences in age and generational norms but there’s also gaps in social norms, lifestyles and work styles. Naturally innovative people seek difference and thrive in transdisciplinary and multi-cultural spaces. They will experiment, approach challenges from many perspectives and utilise resources in fresh ways, often landing at unusual ideas and solutions.

A culturally diverse workplace will hone in on individuals’ unique strengths and what they bring to the table. A culturally-aware team builds a positive employer brand which can then act as a talent magnet or Employee Value Proposition (EVP) opportunity.

Thriving and valuing our differences is what brings a team closer.


However, some businesses and teams are not aware of cultural intelligence, and will therefore routinely run into idea stagnation, suffer with narrow perspectives and could even struggle with deeper respect issues.

Some experts argue that CQ is such an important predictor of success that it’s right up there with cognitive intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ). Leaders with high CQ levels seek to fill gaps in their organisation and foster that innovative diversity. And the good news is that CQ can be learnt.

Cultural Intelligence is built on four capabilities:

1. CQ Drive: The curiosity and motivation needed to work well with others.

2. CQ Knowledge: Understanding the kinds of differences, without resorting to stereotyping specific cultures.

3. CQ Strategy: Learning how to plan effectively in light of cultural differences.

4. CQ Action: Being able to adapt behavior when the situation requires it.

4 Top Strategies to Boost Your Business’s Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

1. Expanding your cultural knowledge

Culture is everywhere!

Newspapers, books, films, your circles of friends, co-workers, travel. Start investigating what you see around you and make the decision to learn more. Try and find unique elements of different cultures but remain mindful and open during the process. 

Don’t be afraid to ask appropriate questions and remember to look at different perspectives and mediums to get a bigger picture. Once you have a better understanding, you can start to investigate ways to increase and embed these learnings into your team.

2. Learning from each other

Not everyone from a particular culture thinks the same. Our generation, history, location and experience all influence the way we think and interact with communities. And because of this, it’s important to sit down with your team and learn about each other’s paths to where you are now.

Share your cultural identities and seek out differing views, learn from each person and be purposeful in how you make space for different opinions within your business. A team that knows more about each other will be able to reach that innovative thrive stage quicker.

Make sure your workplace is a psychological-safe place so that your employees know it’s okay to ask, observe and learn from each other.

3. Fostering cultural diversity in your workplace

Different cultures have so many unique traditions, cuisines and quirks. Incorporate events or traditions into your work life to celebrate your teams’ diversity and encourage them to bring their whole selves to work.

Think about half-days to let the office join a pride parade, bring in a speaker to discuss Indigenous history and traditions or share a meal on Christmas, Eid or Diwali. Discuss with your team the ways they want to express and celebrate their diversity and embed that support into the heart of your work environment.

4. Providing opportunities for intercultural exchanges

Take integrating cultures into your workplace one step further by exploring programs and initiatives to continue your team’s learning.

As remote working opportunities are expanding, organisations can consider this a chance to increase their CQ by expanding their candidate search abroad. Partnering with international companies to provide your staff with understanding cultural nuances in business can also broaden CQ. Investigating cultural intelligence training programs or building a relationship with other diverse businesses can be a beneficial co-learning initiative resulting in a higher CQ. 

By continuously funnelling time and resources into growing your team’s CQ, it shows your team that you care, increasing your capabilities for an innovative mindset. It also  helps position yourselves as an inclusive, desirable place to work where the collective can feel a sense of belonging regardless of their background, experiences, personality or individual culture.

Your Personal
to Boost Cultural Intelligence

  • Acknowledge that no culture is superior to another
  • Reflect on your biases and consider how they might influence your worldview
  • Engage in conversations with people who have different experiences and beliefs
  • Practice active listening to understand and learn from others
  • Consume content from different cultures to broaden your perspectives
  • Challenge yourself by exploring opposing viewpoints
  • Experience different cultures and perspectives firsthand whenever possible

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) in a Nutshell

Cultural Intelligence is a powerful tool for success in the modern global workplace. It is more than just an understanding of different cultures; it’s the ability to work effectively amidst cultural diversity. As the world continues to globalize, CQ is becoming an increasingly important skill for individuals and organizations alike. By making efforts to improve our Cultural Intelligence, we are preparing ourselves for success in this diverse, interconnected world.


Why is CQ important?

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) enables one to respond to complex intercultural situations on the fly. It allows individuals to succeed in any intercultural setting due to enhanced communication, cost savings, and multicultural team effectiveness.

What are the characteristics of culturally intelligent people?

Individuals with high CQ are often curious, open-minded, empathetic, emotionally intelligent, collaborative, and effective communicators. They possess adaptability and flexibility, enabling them to adjust their behavior when needed.

How can I develop my Cultural Intelligence (CQ)?

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) can be developed by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, developing empathy, recognizing that no culture is superior to another, reflecting on your biases, engaging in diverse conversations, practicing active listening, consuming global content, exploring opposing viewpoints, experiencing different religious practices, and immersing yourself in different cultures and perspectives.

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