Many people may not be familiar with the term Intercultural Intelligence, but in a world of global business where crossing boundaries is routine, it has become a vitally important aptitude and skill.
Cultural intelligence allows a person of one background, or culture (say, a Swede) to interpret the unfamiliar mannerisms of someone from another culture (say, an Italian) in the way fellow Italians would. A high ICQ (Intercultural Quotient) is essential for any business professional working in an international or cross-cultural setting.
But Intercultural Intelligence goes beyond purely geographical criteria. Companies have cultures which are often very distinctive; a person joining a new company spends the first few weeks deciphering its cultural code. Within any large company there are sparring subcultures as well; for “trivial” and well-known examples: the sales force versus the engineers or researchers, and the marketing managers versus regulatory people.
The current Covid crisis gives us new examples, upsetting classic communication codes in digital and virtual and altering behavior with masking. At the moment, we are all learning some new intercultural aspects:
- because Covid means accepting new cultures;
- because interculturality means understanding cultural differences.
Intercultural intelligence is related to emotional intelligence, but it picks up where emotional intelligence leaves off.
A person with high emotional intelligence grasps what makes us human and at the same time what makes each of us different from one another. A person with high intercultural intelligence is able to tease out of a person’s or group’s behavior:
- those features that would be true of all people and all groups,
- those peculiar to this person or this group
The vast realm that lies between those two poles is “culture”.
InterCultural Intelligence is Critical
InterCultural Intelligence, then, can be seen to be critical in any organization operating in different cultures or composed of widely differing cultural components. Fortunately, it can be evaluated and, where lacking, can be acquired.
It’s interesting to note that 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 are used to being observers and making a conscious effort to fit in. Why is it that some people act appropriately and effectively in new cultures or among people with unfamiliar backgrounds while others flounder?
Our experience at Peak Lifecycles HR, the member firm of the Cornerstone International Group in Paris, suggests that the answer doesn’t lie in tacit knowledge or in emotional or social intelligence. A person with high ICQ, whether cultivated or innate, can understand and master such situations, persevere, and do the right thing when needed.
The Intercultural Quotient is associated with individual decision making, task performance, global leadership success, job performance, multicultural team performance, and firm-level strategic decisions such as offshore outsourcing, for example.
ICQ is, therefore, an essential attribute among business professionals affecting the competitiveness of their businesses, industries, and countries.
Not surprisingly, assessing the ICQ of an executive level candidate has become a highly important component of the recruiting process. “Intercultural Competence” is of paramount importance for success in today’s global business environments.
Assessing the degree of intercultural Intelligence is a necessity for recruitment, development, and retention, resulting in experience, competencies and certifications in suitable tools for measurement. It is a critical measurement in the predictive success of recruiting for any position where candidates will have to deal with their ability to manage such differences.
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