Home Perspective Does ‘Cultural Intelligence’ Influence Professional Success?

Does ‘Cultural Intelligence’ Influence Professional Success?

Cultural Intelligence (CQ), i.e. the ability to adapt across cultures delves on the capability of individuals to gather, interpret, and adjust their behavior to different cues to function effectively across different cultural settings and/ or in multicultural scenarios.

Gerard Hendrik Hofstede (a scholar who has contributed to international business and international human resources through his groundbreaking work on cultural aspects of international business) mentioned that children belonging to minority or to a small nation usually become bi-lingual or multi-lingual, because as English is taught as academic language along with the native one, which is a rarity among children from big nations who are usually monolingual.

Gerard Hendrik Hofstede

These types of children adapt quickly when they migrate to other countries and assimilate to that culture. It has long been known that there are many advantages to being bi-cultural or multi-cultural such as having a greater number of social networks, being aware of cultural differences, taking part in the life of two or more cultures, being an intermediary between cultures, and so on. Recent research shows that the multi-cultured are also characterized by greater creativity and professional success. One of the reasons is that aside from clinging to their culture, these children (or later professional adults) get the chance to practice the newly learned language and get ‘fully immersed’ to the new culture which in turn develops their cultural intelligence (CQ).

Recently, three recent studies compared the results of bi-cultural/multi-cultural participants to mono-cultural ones – The initial research was on MBA students at a European Business School who had lived abroad for an average of four years. They were given a creative task and were shown the picture of a brick and were given two minutes to write down as many creative uses of it as they could think of. The results showed that the multi-cultured students e generated more ideas), generated a greater number of ideas, and were more creative in their answers with their creative uses of a brick.

In order to examine the effects of multi-culturalism on real-world problem-solving skills, a group of MBA students (of different nationalities) at a business school in the United States were the sample. The study examined how many new businesses the participants had started, how many novel products or services they had invented, and how many breakthrough process innovations they had created.
Not surprisingly, the multi-cultured students triumphed.

The third study, on a group of participants who were Israeli professionals in the United States who worked in the Silicon Valley. They were asked whether them being bi-cultured/multi-cultured lead to their managerial advancement, and also to an increase in managerial reputation. The results showed a positive correlation as well between cultural intelligence and success as professionals.

Multi-cultural people seem to view things from different perspectives and integrate them into a meaningful but diverse view of the world, i.e. their cultural intelligence is rather high. They also can recombine different existing ideas to make novel connections between concepts.

Dr. Carmit Tadmor

We can understand this by means of a psychological mechanism, integrative complexity, which is the capacity and willingness to acknowledge the legitimacy of competing perspectives on the same issue, on the one hand, and the ability to forge conceptual links among these perspectives, on the other. It is a capacity that involves considering and combining multiple perspectives such as effective information search, greater tolerance for ambiguous information, less susceptibility to information overload, and so on.

Dr. Carmit Tadmor (one of the researchers) states that it is possible to achieve higher levels of integrative complexity in a number of ways. Cultural intelligence (CQ) is one such way but not the only way.

Gather more information through the references:
Carmit T. T., Adam D. G., and William W.M., 2012. ‘Getting the most out of living abroad: Biculturalism and integrative complexity as key drivers of creative and professional success’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103, 3, 520-542.\
Frey-Ridgway, S. 1997, ‘The cultural dimension of international business’ Collection building, 16(1), 1997, pp.12-23
Hofstede. G, 1980, ‘Culture’s consequences: international differences in work-related values’, Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, c1980
Hofstede. G, 1988, ‘The Confucius Connection: From Cultural Roots to Economic Growth’, Organizational Dynamics; Spring88, Vol. 16 Issue 4, p5-21, 17p, 3 charts, 2bw
Hofstede. G, 1993, ‘Cultural constraints in management theories’, Academy of Management Executive, 1993, Vol. 7 No. 1, P 81-94
Lee, L. and Sukoco, B.M., 2010, ‘The effects of cultural intelligence on expatriate performance: the moderating effects of international experience’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 21, No. 7, June 2010, 963–981

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 About The Author

Faisal Khair Chowdhury

Faisal Khair Chowdhury
Ph.D. Candidate – University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Founder – IdeaPreachers
Ex-Head of HR- Summit Group
Ex-Consultant HR- Citycell
Ex-DGM HR- Apollo Hospitals Dhaka
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