Monday, October 03, 2011

CQ more important than IQ?

Is CQ, your cultural quotient or "cultural intelligence", more important than IQ? What about EQ (your emotional intelligence -- which businesses often assess when hiring)? Of course, the answer is, "It depends."

First of all, the field of CQ is only about 12 years old. It started with the Y2K crisis when a Singaporian scientist noticed that IT experts were given identical instructions along with culturally sensitive team building activities...yet they returned home and solved the issue using their own methods. Since the field is new, there are a limited number of studies on what "success" CQ can bring. But it looks promising with consistent results from research in 35 countries and testing of about 25,000 people so far.

It also depends on your type of work. In many careers, with the exception of some highly technical fields where high IQ usually translates into success, CQ along with EQ seems to increase effectiveness.

Besides the type of career, CQ is especially helpful for those with certain responsibilities. It is proven to explain the success -- or failure -- of people who travel "widely but not deeply" across cultures (i.e. business executives, diplomats, relief workers). But it can also help anyone whose job includes virtual teams, outsourcing, global partnerships, or even dealing with diverse sub-cultures within a company.

Unlike IQ which remains mostly the same throughout your life, it's encouraging that CQ can be changed. Which also, in a sense, makes it more important than IQ. Time spent assessing and improving your CQ is not wasted time!

Personally, having studied cross-cultural interactions from a sociological and anthropological viewpoint during my M.A., I enjoy the statistical, factual, measurable aspects of CQ. It is based on scientific understandings of intelligence, has been validated by numerous "refereed" papers in top tier academic journals, and has been rigorously tested in the real world. It's not quite as squishy as other approaches -- to use a non-technical word.

Last week I became a "CQ Certified Facilitator" after some training with the Cultural Intelligence Center, based in the US. This organization is impressive -- they contribute to research and applying CQ to both for- and non-profit contexts. Very interesting and I'm looking forward to learning more.

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