I recently read an inspiring article in the Harvard Business Review titled “The Business Case for Curiosity.”  If you think of most of the remarkable innovations throughout history, they all have one thing in common – they are the result of curiosity.

Why does curiosity matter?

New research points to interesting insights about curiosity as it relates to business. Curiosity improves engagement and collaboration. Curious people make better choices, improve their company’s performance, and help their company adapt to uncertain market conditions and external pressures. When curiosity is triggered, we think more deeply and rationally about decisions and come up with more creative solutions. In addition, curiosity inspires employees to develop more trusting and more collaborative relationships with colleagues.

Curiosity is also one of the key elements in defining and differentiating between those who are culturally intelligent and those who aren’t. Within this context, Harvard Business Review also reported that cultural competency (CQ) is the most important factor for successful global business.

Cultural Intelligence, or CQ is defined as the capability to be effective across different cultural contexts. Cultural intelligent have a good grasp of overarching patterns that exist across various cultures around the world; in other words, they have a macro understanding of cultural similarities and differences, identified as CQ knowledge – one of the four capabilities of cultural intelligence. CQ knowledge is the degree to which you understand how culture influences how people think and behave. That said, this kind of understanding, in and of itself, doesn’t make one culturally intelligent, but it is a vital part of becoming more effective across different cultural contexts.

The four CQ capabilities are: Motivation/Curiosity, Knowledge, Strategy and Action. Leaders with high CQ are strong in all four. They are natural bridge builders, building trust and connecting people and can handle challenging multicultural situations with ease because they know how to adapt and adopt strategies appropriate to different cultural situations.

So long as we have the motivation and the curiosity to see others as they are, not less or more than ourselves, and the self-awareness of our own cultural patterns, we can enhance our CQ knowledge. That said, the cultural understanding has limited value if it is not integrated with all four capabilities of cultural intelligence. For example, you know building consensus is an important and essential value in Asia, but your cultural intelligence will only be demonstrated by whether you can effectively negotiate a business transaction that is both respectful and effective with someone from an Asian culture. Therefore, together with motivation and curiosity, we need to learn to strategize (CQ Strategy) and appropriately adjust our actions (CQ Action) so that we can attain the intended outcomes under the different cultural situations.

How does curiosity contribute to better business interactions?

Fewer decision-making errors – When curiosity is triggered, we are less likely to fall prey to confirmation bias (looking for information that supports our beliefs rather than for evidence suggesting that we are wrong) and to stereotyping people.

Reduced group conflict – Curiosity encourages members of a group to put themselves in one another’s shoes and take an interest in one another’s ideas rather than focus on their own perspective. That causes them to work together more effectively and smoothly.  Conflicts are less heated, and groups receive better results.

More open communication and better team performance – Teams with heightened curiosity know how to share information more openly and learn to listen more carefully to their colleagues’ opinions.

Approach a situation with curiosity – Curiosity enables people to approach the unknown with curiosity rather than judgement. As human beings, we all feel an urge to evaluate others, often not positively. We are quick to judge their ideas, behaviors, and perspectives, even when those relate to things that haven’t been tried before.

In summary, your CQ predicts how you will perform when working in culturally diverse situations – whether living or traveling internationally, working on a project with culturally diverse colleagues or customers, or working across two different organizational cultures.

Therefore, the higher your CQ, the more likely that you will outperform others, gain new opportunities, earn higher wages, and experience success working in the diverse, globalized context.

Are you ready to capitalize on culture?