How Cultural Intelligence Can Benefit You and Your Work Environment

We live in one world. What we do affects others, and what others do affects us. To recognize that we are all members of a world community and that we all have responsibilities to each other is not romantic rhetoric, but modern economic and social reality.

We are all living and working in a multicultural community whichever country we live in. In order to succeed, we must acquire a far different set of knowledge, skills and perspectives than previous generations. We must be prepared to trade with, work alongside and communicate with persons from radically different backgrounds than our own. We must be willing to learn, understand and confront complex new issues. For us and our children, preparing for any type of success in today’s world, knowledge about the rest of the world is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity.

We need not look beyond our own borders to sense the impact of the new globalism. New immigrants from Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America and elsewhere have generated diversity within the UK – in communities, places of worship, workplaces and shopping malls – that mirrors the diversity of the world.

There is no doubt, globalization has changed and is still changing the business environment, faster than we can possibly imagine. Today’s rapidly changing technology, the ever changing global economy, the constant mergers and acquisitions among companies, up-sizing, downsizing and resizing has forced almost all of us to change, in some cases almost daily. And all these changes in our professional lives, is in addition to all the daily changes happening in our personal lives.

The term ‘globalization’ has found a significant place in changing the lives of all of us. Though globalization primarily covers the economical side, the impact is not limited to only the economy. It most definitely has a major impact and affects every aspect of our life, whether it’s cultural, social, psychological or political.

The world has become a melting pot of cultures. According to the Regional Language Network, in London, after English the top ten languages spoken fluently are French, Spanish, Polish, Hindi, Italian, Urdu, German, Russian, Bengali and Portuguese. In 2008, over 300 languages were spoken in London, and roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world. London is a well known international centre of culture. The Encyclopaedia of World Cultures has entries on over 1,500 different culture groups in the world.

Whether it’s in our personal or professional lives, this is the real issue facing all of us, globally. How can we find a way to co-exist in this new world? By learning to communicate better, learning about and understanding each other’s cultures, and respecting each other’s differences.

Cultural Intelligence is an important competence in the world we work and live in today. Logically, it’s been around since the beginning of mankind, but it’s only recently entered the mainstream world of the West.

Attempts to collaborate are hindered by friction due to different preferences, language and interpretation of the situation. It can be difficult to harness the benefits of the variety of knowledge and perspective if people defend themselves and lack the awareness of the cultural differences across disciplines. It can prove even more difficult with mergers and acquisitions if cultural dimensions are taken into account before organisational integration.

People have a habit of clinging on to ‘the way it was’ even in our own back yard, never mind in foreign countries and cultures. How can you make an effective and seamless transition and bridge the gap of differences in culture?

In knowledge management, Cultural Intelligence is a big factor in determining teamwork among people from different functions, corporate cultures, disciplines, nationalities, cultures and traditions. In a social complexity situation you need a systematic approach to bridging cultural differences – it can make the success of or it can destroy your business.

The learning and development of Cultural Intelligence is not a quick fix, but a process in which people gradually attain a new insight and a new perspective to a new language and professional methods that will enable them to obtain better solutions in cross cultural situations.

What are the benefits of Cultural Intelligence and what can you gain? Cultural Intelligence will enable you to:

  • Create productive relationships based on valuing people’s differences;
  • Harness the synergy in groups where people think and act differently;
  • Bridge cultural differences and create a common ground and joint culture;
  • Analyse and reflect on intercultural communication;
  • Communicate effectively in various cultural settings;
  • Use differences as a lever in innovation processes.