Ward, Fischer, Sheyna, Lam and Hall (2009) define cultural intelligence (CQ) as “a person’s capability to adapt effectively to new cultural context” (p.86). They argue that the study of cultural intelligences forms a basis for exploring on an individual’s facets that determine their ability to adapt to new cultural practices. Ward et al. (2009) identify the four components of CQ as cognitive, meta-cognitive, motivational and behavioral. In their quest to elaborate on the basis of the CQ concept, Ward et al. (2009) explain that an individual’s knowledge about the culture in question can be termed as their cognitive aspect while an individual’s awareness of the culture during interactions can be termed as Meta –cognitive response. Ward et al. (2009) also explain that the motivation aspect of CQ revolves around ones drive to understand and flourish in a new culture while behavioral aspects of CQ involves ones flexibility in their pursuit to demonstrate ones cultural interactions ability.
On the other hand , Triandis (2006) maintains that intelligence is a complex issues that is culture bound as individuals cultures vary due to language, ethnicity, religion and politics. He therefore argues that CQ is a prerequisite tool that is necessary for an effective working relation between individuals from different cultural backgrounds. This paper seeks to expound on the expected conduct of a cultural intelligent individual, challenges for developing a tool for measuring cultural intelligence, criticism of CQ as a culture adaptation measurement tool and the shortcomings of CQ as a self reporting tool. This paper also seeks to critically analyze the content of Triandis and Ward et al. articles with reference to their relevance to managers, their validity and the practical implications of the same.
Actualization of CQ
To actualize CQ, Triandis (2006) has elaborated on a number of things that a culturally intelligent individual should do. He argues that it is important to suspend judgment when dealing with individuals from different cultures. This is because aside from the ethnic differences, an individual’s character can either be idiocentric-thinking and behaving similar to people in individualistic culture or allocentric- thinking and behaving as part of a collective group. Therefore, a cultural intelligent person should not jump into conclusions but rather conduct some research before making a judgment about a specific individual. For instance, when you notice an individual who seems to be unsociable especially with reference to a specific gender, it is important to indentify if their lack of interactions with the gender in question is influenced by their individual culture or collective culture. This will involve suspending your judgment to conduct research in order to make a correct judgment.
Triandis (2006) asserts that it is important for a cultural intelligent person to evaluate the situations under which they are interacting with their subject before making any conclusions. This is attributed to the fact that over the years, behavioral research has indicated that individuals who are prone to allocentric cultures are more likely to corporate and participate in collective situations as opposed to individuals who thrive in idiocentric cultures. Moreover, most people are very uncooperative to individualistic situations. A practical example of this aspect is when you compare workers who come from wealthy families and those who come from very poor backgrounds. Workers from wealthy families have experienced diverse cultures and are more educated thus they are more likely to be idiocentric.
On the other hand, workers who come from very poor backgrounds, with little education and overreliance on support groups are more likely to be allocentric in their thinking. In such circumstances, it is usually very easy to convince people from poor backgrounds to support group goals because they stand to gain as opposed to individuals who come from rich families. This is because idiocentric individuals don’t feel obligated to support group goals because they think they have nothing to lose or gain.
According to Triandis (2006) a cultural intelligent person needs to undergo training in order to appreciate diverse cultures for easier integration. He argues that training helps to do away with “false consensus effect’ which tends to accentuate the idea that what is normal to one culture is also normal to other culture (p. 22). Cultural training is vital because it eliminates ethnocentrism and it allows individuals to be critical about their culture and more accommodative of other cultures. Triandis (2006) recommends that a cultural intelligent person should undergo cognitive training in order to identify the different aspects of different cultures and, affective training in form of experiments in order to understand diverse cultures. He also calls for behavioral training which seeks to enhance acceptable behavior and reduce unacceptable behavior as per the cultural expectations of the culture understudy.
To concur with this concept, a practical example is a group of tourists. Normally tourists from westernized countries who go to Africa during long vocations take time to learn the culture of the country they intend to visit or the specific group of individuals that they expect to interact with. This is vital in order to make their stay honorable to the natives. Some tourists go to the extent of learning how to greet locals and how to conduct themselves during their stay thus exhibiting CQ through training.