Today’s business world requires that managers do business in multi-cultural conditions. Many companies are expanding into different regions driven by the need to exploit new markets and get access to enough raw materials and a cheap skilled labor force. The establishment of company subsidiaries in new territories presents opportunities for growth and challenges as well. Cross-cultural knowledge is, therefore, necessary for managers of multinational companies. However, due to the diversity of cultures, learning the cultural customs of various ethnic communities is an uphill task putting into consideration that the managers also have economic and technical obligations to fulfill. Cultural intelligence is useful to business managers in decision-making, communication across various cultures and managing the culturally different workforce. Therefore, taken in this context, Cultural Intelligence (CQ) refers to the ability of a person to work effectively in a multicultural environment. This paper briefs my manager if the new concept; that is, CQ is useful for staff development like cross-cultural management training for expatriates.
Culturally Intelligent Person
Cultural intelligence techniques enable business people to function more effectively in any cultural environment. They allow them to acquire universal people skills necessary for adapting to any cultural environment. A culturally intelligent person possesses universal people skills that are necessary for thriving in any cultural environment. The culturally intelligent person does not make generalized judgments regarding the behavior or customs of certain people. Instead, they first consider the intercultural differences between collectivist cultures and individualist cultures before making any judgment. They also take into account the individual differences within a particular culture involving the personality attributes of idiocentric and allocentric personalities. In addition, a culturally intelligent person first determines the personality attributes of a person before making any judgment. For example, a culturally intelligent person does not stereotype the East as being a pure communist economy and the western culture as being a capitalist. The emergence of enterprises in the perceived communist countries is a clear indication of capitalism in these countries while the universal medical cover in most West countries represents the communism.
To make a correct judgment regarding the personality attributes of a person, a culturally intelligent person considers the prevailing situation. The cultural environment influences greatly the behavior of the people. In most cases, collectivist personalities in both individualistic cultures and collectivist cultures show a high tendency for cooperation and affiliation compared to individualist personalities. Thus, a person with higher collectivist tendencies will be more likely to cooperate in tasks and has teamwork skills while an individualist personality is more concerned with being unique and winning. The culturally intelligent person assesses the collectivist-individualist personalities with respect to the cultures in order to make a correct judgment.
A culturally intelligent individual overcomes cultural bias by appreciating the set of norms of a particular culture. This helps to reduce ethnocentrism and improve personal relations and interactions. People of a particular culture believe the superiority of their culture against all others and are bound to be culturally biased. However, by accepting the customs from the other culture’s perspective one can overcome this bias. For instance, learning the African mode of dressing will enable one to overcome cultural bias and appreciate cultural diversity.
Cultural Intelligence in Organizations
Most organizations lack the appropriate tools for the determination of culturally intelligent employees. Instead, the expectation is that the new employees fit into the mainstream culture in the workplace with time. No consideration of the Cultural intelligence attributes of the new employees during the recruitment of new employees takes place; instead, organizations consider the productivity of the individual. Developing a standard cultural intelligence tool is difficult, as it requires that managers learn and understand the particular customs of every culture. This is not possible because of the many inter-cultural variations and even variations within an ethnic group.
The complementary hypothesis postulates that the many issues in the world today are viewed from diverse perspectives. Instead of seeking verifiable evidence through scientific research, the complementary hypothesis suggests that objectivity does not allow a deep understanding of things. Cultural intelligence is not verifiable by any scientific means because objectivity requires the detachment of oneself from a human beings in order to understand it. To understand cultural intelligence, appreciation of its many perspectives is important. Furthermore, the hypothesis suggests that the different perspectives are complementary. The variations that exist between different cultures are complementary rather than random or arbitrarily different. The cultures complement each other and each culture has a complementary opposite to it. Thus, the grouping of cultures is in two dimensions but the dimensions are interrelated like universalism and particularism. Universalism is associated with modern business practices especially in the U.S. while particularism is associated with less developed societies where people know each other personally like in Africa. The perception of Western culture is that it is impersonal and task-oriented while particularistic societies are people-oriented and emphasize relationships more than personal roles.
The latent values are the existing characters that are dormant and therefore not manifested. People with individualistic personalities have a latent desire to express their opinions while people with collectivist personalities also have latent individualistic values. China’s perception as a pure communist culture is not true. The establishment of many business enterprises with individualistic and capitalistic tendencies exist which are responsible for these business enterprises. In a dominantly individualistic society, communitarian cultures also exist albeit on small scale. In America, despite the individualist culture, people prefer social interactions; for instance, in churches, people are concerned with issues affecting other people and remain loyal to their country. This is an attribute of a communitarian culture like China. The latent values of a communitarian culture are also apparent in America’s liking for monarchical kings and queens as witnessed by the large turnout during visits by these foreign monarchies. This shows that beneath the democratic sense held by each American, is their love for monarchical administration. The Japanese have the tendency of being affirmative at all times even when they disagree. This latent value is in many American young men who would lie to their girlfriends to impress them rather than stick to the truth. This shows that the Japanese culture of being affirmative is sometimes applied to other diverse cultures.
Harry Trandis’ perception is that cultural intelligence is variable due to global cultural diversity. Charles and Fons on the other hand feel that the perception of the matter of cultural intelligence occurs in three perspectives, i.e. synergistic, complementary, and latent hypotheses. Harry Trandis in his article suggests cultural intelligence training, involving the learning of an individual’s personality prior to making judgments. Furthermore, opting for an organization that employs people from diverse cultures is important in increasing cultural intelligence. However, Trandis does not give the criteria for the determination of cultural intelligence nor does he explain whether the assessment of a persons’ cultural intelligence is possible. It is also difficult for business managers to learn all the customs of all the ethnic communities where they work during the entire business or career period. Charles and Fons’s article provides the different perspectives of cultural intelligence that help to counter critics of cultural intelligence. It also proposes that a culturally intelligent person allows the expression of latent values because all cultures have suppressed and unexpressed values. The three hypotheses are ideal for cross-cultural management training as they focus on the different perspectives of cultural intelligence. The application of the synergy hypothesis involves the establishment of a single common culture, bearing specific features of the individual diverse cultures, which is important in promoting the motivation and productivity of workers. Understanding the complementary hypothesis will enable managers to become culturally intelligent by respecting the various cultures and subcultures and making wise decisions. Allowing the expression of latent values in spite of dominant values enhances the increase in cultural intelligence.
In making management decisions, the knowledge of the various cultures is important. This increases cultural intelligence and s success in a multicultural environment. To promote understanding and cooperation, expatriates should be able to understand and recognize the foreign culture. In addition, respect for the foreign culture without making any judgment fosters mutual understanding and cooperation in the workplace. Most people find it difficult to work in cultural diversity environment where they are compelled to communicate with people who perceive their culture as different from their view. This makes them unable to cooperate well in performing their duties. If not well managed, it results in misunderstandings, which leads to a decline in the productivity of a company. The misunderstanding occasioned by the cultural differences leads to a reduction in worker efficiency and thus the profitability of a business or organization.
Cultural diversity means that managers and workers of multinational companies have to be culturally intelligent. Culture affects the behavior of people in many ways. Cultural intelligence (CQ) enables managers to interact with other people from different cultures and in making balanced decisions. Various hypotheses explain cultural intelligence as being relative rather than universal. The synergy model provides for a common culture with specific constituent individual cultures. The complementary model enhances respect for the other cultures in a multicultural environment whereas the latent model allows the expression of latent values in a multicultural environment. Therefore, the knowledge of the various cultures fosters mutual understanding in workers working in a multicultural environment and thus promotes success in a competitive business environment.