Cultural Intelligence in an Age of Terrorism

davelivermore | January 13th, 2015 No Comments

 

What’s a culturally intelligent response to the horrific events in Paris last week? I’m not sure. Seeing one more “breaking news” alert about another terrorist attack fills me with a sense of sadness, disgust, and hopelessness. On the other hand, my resolve for promoting cultural intelligence (CQ) is greater than ever. Bear with me as I ruminate in a bit different direction than my usual posts about culturally intelligent work and leadership.

We’d expect that our increased connectivity through travel, technology, multiculturalism, and global trade would have made us better at interacting with people of difference. But culture runs deep. And as we become more global, our tribal identities assert themselves more powerfully than ever.

The greatest divisions of our day stem from vastly different views about how we should live together.People who believe in the ultimate right of free speech are living next door to people for whom following a set of creeds trumps all else. There are no easy answers to the hatred and rage that drives someone to kill a fellow human being in cold blood simply because they disagree with them. And thoughtful debates are needed for when free speech and satire is in part responsible for inciting that rage.

But I’m convinced that a culturally intelligent response begins with refusing to lose hope. The terrorists are not the majority. They’re a tiny minority among our population of 7+ billion people and they’re not getting the last word. And our best denouncement of terrorists’ misogynistic rage is to refuse to resort to their intolerance ourselves.

Don’t shut off the news in denial. And don’t resort to profiling all Westerners or all Muslims, police officers, or black men. We must unabashedly denounce terrorism, misogyny, and oppression, whatever the source. But as we do so, we’re wise to also step back and ask what’s behind the behavior. Every behavior makes sense if you have enough information. That doesn’t mean we accept or agree with it. But what might we learn if we step back to consider why someone believes something so strongly that they’re willing to kill others and themselves to uphold their beliefs? And why might some societies believe it’s in their best interest to give people the freedom to express vitriol?

My sadness by the events of last week was quickly turned into hope when I saw the global outpouring of support that happened in the hours following the attacks in Paris. The evening it happened, I walked by the French Embassy in Copenhagen and saw a diversity of people standing in the rain and cold for hours, simply to pay their respects.

Twitter erupted with Muslims denouncing the attacks and claiming that terrorism does far more to damage the image of Muhammad than a satirical cartoon does.

Non-Muslims in Paris started a #VoyageAvecMoi movement that mirrored the #IllRideWithYou campaign in Sydney. These are campaigns started by non-Muslims offering to escort Muslims who were fearful of revenge attacks.

Social media lit up with not only #jesuischarlie support, but also with outcries for the lives lost in Yemen and northern Nigeria last week.

Cultural intelligence begins with the motivation to learn and understand others’ cultural perspectives (CQ Drive).You can’t eradicate terrorism on your own; but you can make a difference in your own circle. What might that look like?

Speak up when someone in your network starts religious profiling. The vast majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world are going about their lives peacefully. Just as the average Christian had nothing to apologize for when Christian fanatics engaged in genocide against Muslims in former Yugoslavia, Muslims shouldn’t be expected to apologize for horrific acts done by a few fanatics. When someone mutters some monolithic description about people from another religious or cultural group, challenge their ignorance.

Have lunch with your Other. Think of someone you know who views the world in a vastly different way from you—religiously, politically, or otherwise. Share your perspectives with each other and don’t try to convince the other person to see things your way. Seek to understand each other.

Don’t lose hope. Alongside the vicious acts of hatred are stories of people reaching across faiths, cultures, and languages to forge relationships and work together. Jews and Arabs are aligned together [e.g. Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies].  Police officers and African Americans are embracing and looking for solutions together. Hutus and Tutsis have worked together to rebuild Rwanda into an increasingly vibrant economy. Don’t let the stories of violence crowd out the larger stories of mutual understanding, reconciliation, and cultural intelligence.

I’m not suggesting we should ignore the violence and terrorism with blind optimism. Something has to be done. And I’m not interested in politically correct, culturally sensitive conversations that minimize debate and over-emphasize common ground. But for the majority of us who believe strongly in our own values and perspectives but also want to learn from the perspectives of others…let’s use the power of our differences to stop terrorism in its tracks. Now that’s something that gives me hope!

High CQ Prepares Youth to Compete with Robots for Jobs

davelivermore | November 18th, 2014 No Comments

 

In the race for global talent, employers and universities are looking for highly motivated young people who are self-aware, smart, and have an ability to influence and communicate across a myriad of differences. Are you ready?


McKinsey Report, 2013

70% of educators say their graduates are prepared for work. Less than 50% of students and employers agree.

And 90% of executives from 68 countries report that finding effective cross-cultural personnel is a top management challenge. (Economist Intelligence Unit)

As the world of work becomes more automated and robotic, cultural intelligence becomes a crucial way to stand apart. An avatar customer service representative can’t express empathy or engage in decision-making. And negotiation and trust-building can’t be easily outsourced. Now, more than ever, cultural intelligence becomes a critical part of preparing youth for their 21st century careers.

What Improves CQ Most?
What can students, parents, and educators do to give students’ the competitive edge that comes from improved cultural intelligence or CQ? As we work with high schools, colleges, and universities around the world, these are the kinds of initiatives that consistently enhance youth’s cultural intelligence.

Phase 1: Self-Awareness
Today’s youth put a higher priority on human rights and global consciousness than many generations before them. While there are notable exceptions, today’s adolescents and young adults are incensed by racism and discrimination. But many of them still lack the personal awareness that is the foundation for building cultural intelligence. What does it mean to understand and respect my cultural background while also respecting others’ backgrounds? How does my upbringing influence the way I make decisions and view the world? How might my minimization of cultural differences limit me? High school and university are the ideal times to wrestle with the crucial questions of identity and development. Use of the CQ Assessment alongside reflective writing exercises can be useful tools for promoting the self-awareness that is essential for enhancing youth’s CQ.

Phase 2: Meaningful, Immersion Experiences
Most educational institutions prioritize giving students the chance to experience another culture first hand. Whether it’s through study abroad programs or requiring some engagement with communities in nearby neighborhoods, there’s no substitute for experiencing other cultures firsthand. But as I consistently point out, not all immersion experiences are equal. If not done well, they can perpetuate ethnocentrism and erode cultural intelligence. But when designed using the research-based interventions that are proven to enhance cultural intelligence, they offer a transformative opportunity that will go with the young person for the rest of his or her life and career.

Phase 3: Intercultural relationships
Most students don’t need a passport to encounter diversity. Different cultures are as close as the person living in the dorm room next door. Yet university campuses continue to be extremely segregated. Chinese students socialize and study with Chinese students. Christian kids hang out with other Christians. And students from underrepresented cultures (e.g. African Americans in many U.S. business schools) eat together because they don’t feel connected to the majority community. Ironically, students often travel to the other side of the world to learn about different cultures yet come back on campus and default to only spending time with people like themselves. Schools that make an intentional effort to help students utilize the diversity across campus are more likely to simultaneously help their students improve their CQ.

Phase 4: Job Skills
As students become upperclassmen, the emphasis upon cultural intelligence needs to move toward preparing them for the workplace. Many job recruiters tell me they rarely hear students who can articulate how their study abroad experience will make them better at their job. High school guidance counselors and university career service advisors play a pivotal role in helping students develop the language and skills for describing how their journey toward cultural intelligence will influence the ways they teach, lead, manage projects, etc. This phase is where the cultural intelligence model and assessments are ideally suited. As compared to other intercultural inventories that focus on personal preferences and attitudes, the CQ Assessments predict students’ performance in culturally diverse settings.

Better College and Job Prospects
As admission to top universities becomes increasingly competitive, standardized test scores and impressive resumes of community service aren’t enough to get into many schools. A growing number of universities are prioritizing admission of students with “average” test scores who demonstrate self-awareness, curiosity, and people skills—all characteristics that are connected to cultural intelligence.

Executives from Google, Lenovo, McKinsey and several other leading companies consistently ask me, “Where do we find culturally intelligent young people?” They’re on the hunt for talent who have the skills that go beyond technical functions. As the linear and numerical functions become more automated, the most attractive employers are looking for young talent who have the people skills, self-reliance, teamwork, and ability to communicate effectively across a number of contexts and situations—all things that are shaped by one’s CQ. And as companies like Google and universities like Harvard adopt CQ as part of their assessment and development process, students who can describe and demonstrate their CQ have a distinct advantage.

It’s a whole lot easier to instill the values and skills related to cultural intelligence in youth than adults. We’d be delighted to work with you in that process. And best of all, when we improve the CQ of youth, we make the world of today and the world of tomorrow a better place for all of us.

Teaching English with Cultural Intelligence

davelivermore | November 11th, 2014 No Comments

In most Western classrooms, students are rewarded for speaking up, asking questions, and participating in classroom discussions.

In most Asian classrooms, students are taught to listen carefully, respect the teacher, and only speak when invited to do so.

In the U.S., struggle is an indicator that a student isn’t cutting it. Smart kids barely study, get A’s and they finish their work first. And the high achievers are asked to come to the front of the class to demonstrate their insights while struggling students are dealt with discreetly to ensure their self-esteem stays in tact.

In China, struggle is viewed as a predictable part of the learning process. A student is allowed to struggle because it’s a chance to show he or she has what it takes to resolve a problem by persevering through it. The student who can’t figure out a problem is asked to come to the front of the class to work it out in front of peers.

These are gross over-generalizations. But if you’re teaching away from home, you know that these kinds of educational differences are the tip of the iceberg for what you experience in the classroom. The importance of learning how to be true to your own teaching style and values while also adapting effectively to your students’ personalities, learning styles, and cultural backgrounds is essential. That’s almost self-evident. But research now demonstrates that your effectiveness teaching across cultures can be pinned upon your CQ, or your cultural intelligence quotient. Cultural intelligence is the capability to function effectively in a variety of national, ethnic, and organizational cultures.

Just as emotional intelligence helps you interact effectively with students based upon the cues they send about their emotional state, cultural intelligence allows you to have that kind of insight when you’re a cultural outsider. A great deal of what it takes to detect and respond in light of the emotions of a student presumes you know how to interpret their nonverbal behaviors and the subtext beneath their words. That’s difficult if not impossible when dealing with someone from an unfamiliar culture.

Cultural intelligence picks up where intuition and skills like emotional intelligence leave off. It allows you to have the same kind of practical sensibility when interacting with students and colleagues who come from different cultural backgrounds than you.

The question that drives our research on cultural intelligence is this: Why do some teachers easily and effectively adapt their views and behaviors cross-culturally and others don’t? What factors explain the difference?

Our CQ Assessments measure your skills in each of these four areas. And they’ve been academically validated to accurately predict your level of effectiveness teaching in a culturally diverse environment.

What does it look like to teach English as a second language with cultural intelligence? Many ESL students are most comfortable learning through rote memorization or by mastering mathematical formulas and grammatical rules. That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t benefit from other methodologies that you might view as more effective. But teaching with cultural intelligence means you begin with where your students are most comfortable and then find ways to strategically prepare them for alternative strategies. For example, if you’re going to use games, a simulation, or an approach where students roleplay a conversation in front of the class, give them an opportunity first to develop their confidence by memorizing material, practicing privately, and working with a peer group. Teaching with cultural intelligence means you adapt your teaching style and content based upon your students’ cultural background but that you also must retain your personal style for what makes you authentic and effective in the classroom.

There’s a great deal of research behind the kinds of strategies that are most effective for teaching with cultural intelligence. And the good news is, anyone can teach with cultural intelligence. But it’s not automatic. It requires an intentional effort to assess and improve your skills and a developmental plan for adjusting the way you teach. But with a conscious effort, you’ll find yourself becoming more confident and comfortable in the classroom.

To learn more about cultural intelligence assessments and books or to attend an upcoming CQ Certification program, visit www.culturalQ.com