From IQ to EQ to CQ

While I prepare dinner for the family, talk on the phone, answer an SMS message, set up a business meeting for next week, remind the kids to take out the dog, check their homework, my friend, Carla, will go to the office, answer her emails, set up her business meetings and then come home and make dinner for her family.  Later she will sit with her children and help them with their homework.

I come from a polychronic culture where there are no borders between work and home, but Finland’s monochronic sensibility, which maintains “there is a time and place for everything,” contributes to Carla dividing her tasks between home and work and often the tasks do not overlap.

First we had IQ, Intelligence quotient. Then Daniel Goleman introduced us to EQ, Emotional Intelligence, and today we have added to the “Q” family an important concept called CQ, Cultural Intelligence.

CQ is a learned skill that leaders who want to succeed in the 21st post-global era need to learn in order to effectively manage and lead people from cultures that are different from their own.  This requires cultural awareness, understanding, flexibility, and effective communication skills, all of which are skill sets learned in order to succeed in a global business setting.

Greet Hofstede, a prominent researcher on cultural differences, describes culture as our “mental software.”  We all have specific configurations in our minds, based on our values and assumptions, which program our habits and our behavior.

Today we have tools that allow us to measure culture based on statistics on how people from different cultures behave through five parameters, which encompasses most of the behavior patterns in every society:

Hierarchy vs. equality – Do we live in a society where the individual is more important than the group, or is it more important to belong to a group that “takes care of you,” such as in collective societies?

Individualism vs. collectivism – How important are our own objectives opposed to the objectives of a “group?” Do we talk in terms of “me” or “us”? Are we willing to express our opinions at the expense of not always pleasing others?

Performance vs. caring/quality of life – How do we view success? Money or quality of life? Do we identify with “I work so I can enjoy life” or with “work is my life”?

Uncertainty/ Avoidance vs. Let it be – Do we avoid making decisions when we can’t see the entire picture? Do we need certainty, control and careful planning or are we comfortable taking risks and flowing with “what comes along”?

Flexibility vs. discipline – Do we have multiple paths to reach our objectives or is there only one true path we must follow?

Each of these parameters will determine the cultural behavior in our own societies and will be pivotal in how we interpret the behavior of those from other cultures with whom we come in contact.

Changing culture is a very difficult task to accomplish. It requires changing adults about values they have learned as children. That said, we can become culturally aware through realizing that we don’t all reason, think and act in the same way. Against this background, if we can recognize our own bias, how our values affect the way we judge other people and if learn to judge others according to their own values instead of ours, we will have achieved a global mindset.

At the end of the day, people are people; it’s our values and habits that make us different.