Cultural Intelligence: What is it, and why is it important?

Our Knowledge Share Forums, held quarterly, do just that; they’re an opportunity for signatory ED&I leads to share knowledge, experiences, challenges and learnings on a topic, often with a guest speaker.  

We recently welcomed Minaxi Mistry and Dylan Shimmon from ED&I Consultancy Equality Leaders to talk about Cultural Intelligence.  

Cultural Intelligence (sometimes referred to as ‘CQ’ or ‘Cultural Quotient’) is defined as the capability to function and relate effectively in culturally diverse situations; actively working to understand values and norms in cultures outside of your own, and bridging differences across communities.  

We can use cultural intelligence to improve collaboration across both diverse teams and diverse markets in order to build better stronger teams and business outcomes.  

Here’s a summary of what we learned in the session. 

Why Culture Matters 

Culture is a shared pattern of beliefs, values, assumptions and behaviours that distinguishes one group from another. Or to put it more simply, it’s the ‘way we do things around here.’  

Culture includes national and ethnic cultures, but it also includes cultures organised around one’s profession, age group, gender and function. Essentially, CQ is a person's capability to function effectively in culturally diverse situations - both internationally and domestically. 

Why CQ’s important?  

CQ’s important because it enables impactful ED&I outcomes, helps build high performing teams, and grow inclusive leadership capabilities. But how?  

We live in a globalised world, with ever-increasing connectivity across markets. So for many companies the greatest opportunities for growth lie in expanding into new markets, both at home and abroad.  

And with global collaboration becoming a key driver in achieving business success, cultural intelligence has a big part to play. Organisations with a culturally intelligent culture and workforce are more likely to make better decisions, collaborate more effectively - and grow.  

Cultural Intelligence and Collaboration 

Complex business problems can no longer be solved by just one individual, one culture, or even one continent. As a result, collaboration across markets, cultures and boundaries is an essential part of effective problem-solving.  

Someone having cultural intelligence is not just their being aware of different cultures. It means that they’re able to culturally adapt and effectively work with and relate to people across a variety of cultural contexts.  

People with high cultural intelligence are attuned to the values, beliefs, and styles of communication of people from different cultures. They can use this knowledge to help them relate to others with empathy and understanding. 

What CQ looks like in practice 

Unlike IQ or emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence is not something that can be measured by a score. Instead, it should be viewed as something to be continuously improved and worked on. 

Being culturally intelligent involves learning about your own roots, beliefs and values. It’s about avoiding stereotypes, learning about different cultures and interacting with diverse groups. 

How CQ impacts business decisions

No matter how culturally diverse your workplace or inclusive your team, there will always be a multitude of experiences and viewpoints shaping both the way in which people see the world and interact with those around them. 

A leader who is culturally intelligent will be able to notice these differences and harness them to achieve more joined up thinking, effective communication and powerful collaboration.  

Want to learn more about cultural intelligence? Click here to visit our partners page for Equality Leaders to find out more about the work that they do. 

Want to learn more about cultural intelligence? Click here to visit our partners page for Equality Leaders to find out more about the work that they do. 


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