Last Blog Entry : Cultural Intelligence

We have covered the major components of organizational behavior this semester. We took a look on the individual, the collective and the organizational factors that have an impact on the human behavior in an organizational context. At the beginning of the semester, we talked about diversity and individual differences in a professional environment and more precisely, we talked about cultural intelligence. As an exchange student, I have been confronted to cultural issues throughout the last couple of months. The cultural intelligence, CQ, is then of great interest to me since it is easily applicable to my current situation, and today’s paper is going to focus on that topic.

First, let’s review what cultural intelligence is. The CQ reflect the ability of an individual to adapt his behavior effectively across different cultures. There are a lot of CQ profiles. For some, this capability is innate, as they are less attached to their original culture, and for others, training must be done to develop and improve certain aspects of CQ. Individuals with a high CQ are generally able to analyze and recognize patterns or consistencies of the modified landscape they are interacting with in order to anticipate behaviors and making their own behavior consistent with these cultural characteristics. Usually, these individuals are also able to suspend their judgement when issues occurs in order to clearly identify the differentiation between their home culture characteristics and their new environment characteristics.

Cultural intelligence can be divided into three main components. The first dimension is defined as the head, and include the cognitive and metacognitive aspect of CQ. This is about the knowledge an individual has on other cultures, and on the learning strategies established to acquire it. It is also to be aware of the signification of these tacit knowledge in the context of a different culture. The second dimension is called the body, and refer to physical and behavioral aspect of CQ. It is the capability to behave according to the customs and gestures of people around. In other words, it involve the ability to receive and mirror the cultural characteristics and is associated to task performance. The last dimension is the heart of CQ, and is associated with motivation. For someone to adapt to another culture requires confidence and perseverance. It is about overcoming obstacles to perform in a new professional context.

Let’s apply this framework to the very specific case of expatriate workers, as seen in one of the final presentation. Studies done on expatriates have shown that the cultural intelligence of expatriates influences their performance at work. The CQ is considered as an important predictor of cultural effectiveness and of performance in international assignments. These findings are very important to firms in terms of human resources management, and might have implications on the investments in employee’s cultural intelligence training. On the individual level, having a high CQ is starting to be essential in a context of globalized economy.

For the last part of the paper, I would like to apply this framework to my experience here in Singapore and in Southeast Asia, even if it is not necessarily related to a professional environment. First, let’s throw a glance at the academic example. I had knowledge about the academic differences between here and home. For instance, participation in class and outside the class is more valorized in Singapore. The preparation before classes is also very different. We don’t have any kind of tutorials at home. I had the knowledge before coming, but I still had to persevere to adapt to these new methods and attain considerable results. The heart was there. To do so, I had to embody the system. Another example, more applicable to Southeast Asia in general, is the communication differences. Indeed, in the first days, it was possible to analyze some typical gesture and accent in people’s way of communication. After a while, I sometime use the same sentences patterns for instances and sometime use the same intonation, without mimic the person. These examples might seem very basic, but still represent the main idea behind cultural intelligence.


Sources: Harvard Business Review, International Journal of Business and Management, Massey University, Forbes.

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