Whatever your business, and wherever you work, one of the essential drivers for your upcoming success will be to develop your cultural intelligence (CQ) and global mindset.
A high level of CQ allows you to be agile in different cultural settings or in response to new challenges.
These may come from a multicultural workforce with diverse backgrounds, generations and religious beliefs, a company’s expansion into new global markets, disruptive innovations and technologies, or perhaps from a conference hall full of people from many different age groups and backgrounds.
Responsiveness, empathy and perspective are what count—and you can’t build this high CQ in one day. However, you can learn from the mistakes around you to develop your global skills over time.
ARE YOU GOOD AT LEARNING FROM MISTAKES?
Research suggests that exposure to a variety of experiences in different countries or work environments, and an ability to adapt even when making mistakes, develops a much higher level of CQ than living and working in one particular environment or location.
Those who are asked to react and solve problems in diverse settings become, almost literally, ‘wired’. And this can be true even when they fail in their first or second or third assignment or relocation. Perhaps especially when they fail.
It seems that those with heightened CQ are able to pick themselves up and dust themselves off every time they fall flat on their face. And this resilience may have enormous implications for your own organization or business.
Low CQ may partially explain why Western countries and governments have so signally failed in planning for the future of countries in which they have intervened, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
I was recently reading The Prince of the Marshes by Rory Stewart, the British adventurer, MP and diplomat (about his time as an administrator in Southern Iraq).
In the book, he reveals how ignorance of centuries of tribalism, local cultures, rivalries, and loyalties, has led to many of the mistakes that Western governments have made in the Middle East and Central Europe in recent times.
The same mistakes have been replicated time and again by companies or organisations expanding into diverse markets they haven’t understood, or which they believe are part of the new ‘global village’ and therefore easily susceptible to their global brand and management style.
Google is just one of many large foreign companies that have failed in China because they made elementary cultural mistakes, such as choosing the Chinese characters for Gu and Ge as their name brand because they sounded like Google.
The characters translated into Chinese as Song of the Rice Harvest!
These failures of research and targeting—and especially the inability to understand or reach out to local cultures—are extremely costly. Many international charities, businesses, and government programmes are not only ineffective but lose millions or even billions of dollars.
THE CHALLENGE AHEAD
A 2015 report by the UK’s Department of International Trade (formerly UKTI) estimated that the UK loses £48 billion a year due to a lack of cultural intelligence.
And yet, if you told some CEOs or business leaders that low cultural intelligence was severely impacting their profitability, they might think you were cuckoo.
The same might be said of politicians or military leaders who think that CQ is of little importance in the overarching priorities of a political campaign or military intervention.
Working with difference is often complex and challenging. It requires patience and nuance and subtlety, which is perhaps why more than 90 per cent of global executives identify cross-cultural effectiveness as their biggest challenge.
If you have a black-and-white view of the world and of diversity issues, if you are impatient in new situations and fearful of making mistakes, cultural intelligence might not be for you.
However, if you can train yourself to develop your CQ, you stand a much greater chance of success in today’s global economy.
If you want to discover how cultural intelligence can help you succeed in the new digital economy, book a free consultation with me (30 mins via Skype): Global Mindset Coaching Session.
In this session we’ll work together on your Global Mindset Toolkit and Action Plan. Places are limited, so be sure to reserve your spot here.