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What are the Advantages of Cultural Intelligence in Business?

cultural intelligence in business

By Naziha Cherradi

Amsterdam – These are the thoughts that emerged while reflecting on an assignment completed while working in an international contact center as an inside account manager. There were around 250 employees with over 25 different nationalities serving and supporting clients from more than a hundred countries, and that was only the beginning.

Cultural intelligence is related to the ability to adapt and interact within a multicultural work environment. It includes the components of intercultural engagement and communication as well as understanding. Although we might be open-minded and show interest in understanding someone else, we will be challenged — or worse, confronted — to leave our comfort zone. Interactions are not limited to our linguistic and ethnic differences; our interactions move us beyond our values, social norms, belief systems and so on.

Leaders are challenged in managing human complexity by building bridges and transforming differences into strengths. They must bring people together to achieve the same goal, following the same objectives and strategies. How? By maintaining a collaborative mindset between employees and business partners, developing relational qualities such as trust, respect and tolerance, and encouraging the development of interpersonal skills. Cultural ignorance, on the other hand, lends itself to pitfalls such as the lack of understanding and the rapid spread of miscommunication (assumption, judgment, perception, etc.) which lead to clashes, limited growth and missing development opportunities.

One of the benefits of cultural intelligence is the cultivation of the workspace as a creativity and innovation hub for problem-solving and design-based thinking by fostering effective teamwork and productivity or creating an entrepreneurial culture, for example. Nowadays, cultural intelligence is integrated into the strategic approach of Human Capital Asset Management and Development departments. Businesses are able to measure intercultural performances and capabilities against factors such as behavior, knowledge, motivation and strategy. Creating a supportive workforce will encourage emotional intelligence skills such as empathy, confidence and the development of diversity in success.

Developing cultural intelligence facilitates happiness at work, encourages diversity awareness and reinforces inclusion and talent retention. The three elements necessary for developing cultural intelligence are education (curiosity enhances learning), information (cross-cultural knowledges) and prevention (internal and external communication). Social networks have supported global economy growth and the development of new business trends as well as the upbringing of a new culture of connectivity and of sharing. Cultural intelligence is all about TRUST: Tolerance, Respect, Unity, Solidarity and Teamwork.

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