5 Things Culturally Intelligent Universities Do

davelivermore | July 8th, 2014 No Comments

Guest post by Dr. Sandra Upton  

Today more than 2.5 million students are studying outside their home countries. Estimates predict a rise to 7 million international students by 2020. Students from Asia are entering the major academic systems of North America, Western Europe, and Australia and vise versa. Countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada have adjusted visa and immigration requirements to attract foreign students. But what happens once they arrive on campus?

In my nearly 18 years of working in higher education I’ve observed the impact of these changes. Smart institutions realize that competing globally means creating culturally intelligent campus communities that embrace and leverage diversity. Those who tie diversity to academic and institutional excellence will be the ones that are most successful.

The colleges and universities making the most strides in becoming authentic, culturally intelligent institutions adopt the following practices:

1. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is tied to strategic, measurable outcomes.  

For any D&I initiative to be effective, it must be an integral part of the institution’s mission, core values and strategic plan. There must also be a high level of synergy and alignment across the efforts of various departments and divisions. Most significant, and the weakest link at many colleges and universities, is the need to evaluate the effectiveness of D&I efforts with measurable outcomes. It’s easy to engage in a lot of useful activities like diversity fairs, multicultural awareness weeks, and workshops. But the question becomes - Do our D&I efforts support the overall goals and objectives of the university and can they be measured for effectiveness?

2. Diversity is important. Inclusion is even more important.  

I recently heard someone say, Diversity is inviting everyone to the party; inclusion is allowing everyone to dance. Colleges and university’s that diversify and do nothing else set themselves up for failure. The real test comes with creating an environment where everyone on campus thrives and is able to achieve their maximum potential. Inclusively excellent institutions consistently engage in the process of identifying and eliminating racism and other biases (conscious or unconscious) by changing systems, structures, policies, practices and attitudes so that power is redistributed and shared more equitably. This occurs by using the next three practices.

3. Cultural Intelligence is prioritized for everyone on campus – students, faculty and staff.

Recruiting a diverse group of students, faculty and staff is essential but it’s not enough. It has to be followed by a strategic plan that fully equips the entire campus community with the skills to relate and work effectively across cultural differences. Whether it’s equipping Chinese students to engage with their North American peers, supporting underrepresented staff to succeed within the institution, or helping faculty understand the different needs of Latino versus African-American students, the CQ of students, faculty, and staff make or break whether a university truly becomes a more diverse, inclusive place. The conversations, lectures, and group projects that occur behind closed doors ultimately reveal whether a campus is becoming more culturally intelligent. Creating a learning and development plan for improving CQ is essential.

4. Diversity content is strategically integrated into the curriculum.

Since colleges and universities are ultimately about education, diversity must be built into the curriculum. Each department needs to identify learning outcomes and create a rubric for assessing courses and students in light of the priorities of diversity and inclusion. Students need to see how diverse perspectives enhance their understanding of the material being taught and they need to see how hands-on experiences on campus, in the local community and through study abroad programs tie to their personal and professional goals.

5. Leadership Commitment

University leaders (President, Provost, VPs and Board of Trustees) must personally demonstrate cultural intelligence and strategically integrate it across the institution. This means intentionally including the contributions of all stakeholders within the organization by ensuring all stakeholders are represented in every conversation, decision, and new initiative. And it means building an institutional culture that views diversity as an institutional treasure and inclusion as a strategic imperative.

I am thrilled to be joining the team at Cultural Intelligence Center and am looking forward to using my years of experience as a faculty member, administrator and leader in facilitating several MBA global business experiences, to work alongside my colleagues in the higher education space around the globe. Given the global changes coming our way, it remains a critical yet exciting time for institutions of higher learning around the world.

10 Things Culturally Intelligent Travelers Do

davelivermore | June 6th, 2014 6 Comments

Some have said, “International travelers are like dogs in an art museum. They see everything and appreciate nothing.” But it doesn’t have to be that way, In fact, when approached with intentionality and reflection, traveling abroad is positively related to all four capabilities of cultural intelligence. Here are ten things culturally intelligent travelers do before and while they travel abroad:

1.     Search the Web Intelligently
The culturally intelligent use the power of the internet to do a quick purview of the history of a place (start with BBC country profiles), the cultural norms (compare your country versus where you’re going using Hofstede’s tool), and look up hot topics in the local news (try searching only sites that originate from your destination; e.g. only search news stories from domains ending in .th if you’re visiting Thailand).

2.  Read Novels or Memoirs about their Destination
Culturally intelligent travelers look beyond TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet and read novels or memoirs for cultural insights about their destination. If you’re going to Cambodia, try Francois Bizot’s memoir, The Gate. If you’re heading to Paris, try David Lebovitz’ Sweet Life in Paris or if you’re heading to the world cup in Rio de Janeiro, try Memoirs of a Militia Sergeant.

3. Watch Movies
Films are another great way the culturally intelligent gain a more visceral understanding of a place they plan to visit. The traveler with high CQ is careful not to assume that A Fond Kiss can be generalized to all South Asians living in the U.K. any more than one should view Motorcycle Diaries as the normative experience for all South American youth; but movies like these are a great way to engage your mind.

4. Take Care of Themselves
Overcoming the physical and emotional drain of travel is vitally important. Culturally intelligent travelers understand that stress and fatigue make them unusually susceptible to culture shock and frustration. When crossing time zones, follow these basic rules of thumb, though this is more of an art than a science:

  • Set your watch to the new time zone as soon as you board your international flight. If at all possible, attempt to follow the “new sleep” and eating patterns even on the trip over.
  • Eat half of what they give you on the plane–if that. And go easy on the alcohol. You’re already getting dehydrated. But drink all the non-alcoholic beverages you can get out of them.
  • Force yourself into the new sleep patterns immediately upon arrival. Don’t take any naps if you arrive in the morning or mid-day.
  • After you arrive, walk or run outside and get as much sunshine as possible. Light is key. Again, stay awake when it’s light but not too late. When it’s dark, sleep. Light is the most important thing that impacts your circadian rhythms.
  • Drink a lot of coffee or tea before noon.If you already drink caffeinated beverages, caffeine can have a strong effect in regulating your wake-up mode. It’s especially effective if you go without caffeine for a few days prior to travel.
  • Consider taking Melatonin before bed. Many people find that melatonin, a natural nutritional supplement, really helps regulate their sleeping patterns.

Attending to your physical and emotional well-being will play a big role in helping you be more ready to fully engage in all that your intercultural experience has to offer.

5. Visit Grocery Stores
Culturally intelligent travelers stroll through the aisles of a local grocery store to see what items are sold, how their displayed, and what people are buying. This is a strategy to use even when traveling to different regions across your own city or country. While you’re at it, buy some of the items that are unfamiliar to you and try them. This is a simple, fun way to experience the day-to-day life of a culture.

6. Compare News Stories
Culturally intelligent travelers compare stories in an international paper like USA Today or the Financial Times with those in a local English newspaper. What gets reported and how? Notice the different perspectives on the same events.

7. Talk to Taxi Drivers
Culturally intelligent travelers look for ways to interact with their taxi drivers. Most taxi drivers have fascinating opinions and perspectives on current events, the places you should visit, their view on the local culture, etc. Learn from their insights!

8. Venture Beyond the Tourist Havens
The culturally intelligent do whatever they can to get beyond tourist haunts. Even if you’re in a major metropolitan place like Shanghai, you can walk out of Starbucks and get on a city bus and suddenly be immersed in the local culture.

9. Take in the Arts
Culturally intelligent travelers don’t only visit world renowned art galleries like the Louvre; they also pop into boutique galleries and museums and check out the art in places like Hanoi, Durban, and Dubai as well as Paris and Rome. One time I stumbled upon an art gallery in Siam Reap and it was the highlight of my visit to Cambodia. It gave me insight into some of the modern day perspectives of the Khmer people that I would have otherwise missed.

10. Laugh at Themselves
The culturally intelligent don’t take themselves too seriously. They try a few words in the local language, sample some foods, and expect to be disoriented at times. An ability to laugh at yourself and learn from your mistakes can make a world of difference in not only behaving appropriately but enjoying the whole experience.

Nothing has the potential of improving CQ like traveling across borders. As you embark on your next business trip, study abroad experience, or holiday, use your travels to learn more about yourself and the world.

What CQ travel strategies would you add?

Sit Still and Improve Your CQ: The Power of Reflection

davelivermore | April 30th, 2014 4 Comments

The other day I almost missed my flight. I threw my stuff in the overhead bin, took my place in my bulkhead seat, and sat still for the first time all day. I welcomed the break for the first couple minutes but I got stir crazy fast. I boarded so quickly that I didn’t have time to grab any reading material and I had already read this month’s in-flight magazine. We took forever to taxi toward our takeoff and even once airborne, we had a lot of turbulence, which meant I couldn’t get out of my seat and grab my laptop. I didn’t even have a piece of paper where I could scribble down the “to do items” that were flooding my head. I was frustrated by how much time I was wasting.

Yet researchers suggest that had I handled my situation differently, I could have used the forced sedentary moment to get smarter, healthier, and more productive.  It sounds too simple but it’s true. Sit still, think, and you can improve all kinds of things, including your cultural intelligence (CQ).

Reflection is standing apart from our experiences to consider the meaning and interpretations of what occurred. It’s one of the most important steps for effectively relating across cultures. Last month I described the inadequacy of travel by itself to improve CQ and it needs to be stated here again:

  • The high school student who spends a day volunteering at the local food bank may come away making sweeping generalizations about the recipients of such programs based upon his one-day encounter. Without guided reflection alongside the experience, his one-day encounter may have little lasting impact on his CQ, or worse yet, lower his CQ.
  • And the project manager who interacts daily with colleagues from multiple time zones and cultures may be frustrated by the continued hassles and misunderstandings that occur on her virtual team. Without reflection, she may not understand and appreciate how the diversity of perspectives and viewpoints can be one of the greatest strengths to the project.

But when we take time to reflect upon an intercultural experience, it’s likely to improve our CQ. What does it mean to “reflect”?

1. Describe the Experience
When I frantically boarded my recent flight, I had just finished speaking at a one-day conference with leaders from several nationalities. Taxi and takeoff were ideal times to reflect on what the day had been like.  What happened, how did people respond, what was different from expected?

Or I could have just as easily spent the time trapped in Seat 1C reflecting on the interaction I just had with the Somali taxi driver who dropped me off…Or mentally describing the Latino gate agent who seemed unfazed by my urgency to catch the flight. The point is to ruminate on the intercultural experiences we encounter all day long.

2. Explore Deeper
All too often reflective experiences stop with “description.” This is particularly true when people are told to “journal”. They record what they did but the real benefit of reflective thinking occurs when we begin to examine the experience in light of other objectives, priorities, and assumptions.

One way to explore an intercultural experience more deeply is by asking ourselves several questions. We usually get lazy after one or two but the goal is to keep asking yourself questions about the experience and what it might reveal. At least five questions is a good goal. Keep going. And think about whether your answers are sound. Compare your interpretations with what experts have discovered based upon research. And talk with others. Dig deeper into the meaning behind your experiences.

3. Transfer Learning
Finally, see if you can extrapolate some kind of learning for future use. This might include goals for future action that can be taken forward in the next experience like this one or connecting it more broadly to other learning and work. You might ask:

  • What possible paths could I take from here?
  • What ideas might move this forward?
  • What are some different ways to tackle this kind of situation next time?

A great deal of my understanding of reflection is informed by Donald Schon, a foremost thought leader on the power of reflection-on-action to improve future behavior. This is at the crux of what we assess and develop in our work on CQ Strategy—your awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions.

Everyday Practices for Reflection
Here are a few simple practices for incorporating reflection into our frenetic lives:

1. Just Breathe
Mindfulness training and meditation courses always begin with the importance of paying attention to our breath. Stop for three minutes and breathe deeply. Listen to your breath. No one is so busy they can’t afford three minutes.

2. Retreat to Nature
A natural environment better conditions you for reflection. In today’s high-tech society, many of us sit for long hours in front of screens, sometimes doing boring activities that cause a level of mental fatigue that was unknown to our ancestors. Take a 15 minute break from an artificial environment. Go for a walk in the park and clear your head.

3. Dialogue with Others
Combine your inner contemplation with conversation with others. Be intentional about finding conversation partners who won’t always agree with you and who don’t see everything the same way. Describe, explore, and transfer learning together.

4. Write
Thinking and writing are different. Thinking is unstructured, disorganized, and chaotic. But writing  encourages you to create a story line and structure to make sense of what happened and work toward a solution. Even a few sentences, words images, or questions can be valuable aids for tapping the power of reflection.

5. On-the-Fly
Commute times are an ideal time to reflect before and after an experience. Instead of returning voice mails, reading emails, and surfing your smart phone, you’re likely to improve productivity (and CQ!) more by staying unplugged for a 10 minute commute rather than multi-tasking. Walking the dog, moving from one meeting to the next, and washing dishes are all built-in opportunities for reflection.

Many intercultural experiences are devoid of reflection and as a result, make little impact. But when we discipline ourselves to think deeply before, during and after an intercultural experience, we improve our CQ, increase our productivity, and broaden the horizons of ourselves and others.

Read “From Experience to Experiential Learning: Cultural Intelligence as a Learning Capability for Global Leader Development” for additional insights on reflection, international experiences, and CQ.