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Using Cultural Intelligence (CQ) to Compete with Robots

davidlivermore | March 22nd, 2021 No Comments

Listen to many futurists, and you would think that robotic engineers and therapists will be the only jobs left in ten years. There’s plenty of reason to pay attention to the massive disruption from the automation of work. But if you’ve ever attempted to do a virtual chat session with a customer service robot or talked to a voice-activated receptionist, you know there’s still plenty of work left for humans.

CNN medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta says the human brain can perform in a way that no computer ever will. In his new book Keep Sharp, he writes, “No matter how sophisticated artificial intelligence becomes, there will always be some things the human brain can do that no computer can.” 

But just having a brain isn’t enough. It’s using the power of this small, mighty organ to do what technology can’t do nearly as well—adapt and create. 

Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern University, says students need to be prepared to work alongside smart machines. Rather than taking a dystopian view of a world overrun by robots, Aoun argues that humans should focus on what we alone can do—exercise our cognitive abilities to invest, discover, and create something valuable to society. And in his view, this comes down to developing human literacy—flexible thinking, creativity, and cultural agility. In other words, cultural intelligence.

AI is notoriously bad at adapting to change.  Cheaper processing and the availability of data have certainly improved technology’s flexibility to address myriad problems that arise. But AI lacks the human agility to address unforeseen contexts and circumstances. A culturally intelligent individual, however, can take what’s learned from one context and apply it to another. We have the ability to build relationships, work together, create artistic masterpieces, and come up with cures for devastating diseases. Cultural intelligence allows us to leverage the superpowers of the human brain. There will be plenty of work left for us to do in the world of automation. But it’s going to require unlearning how we work and relearning new ways.

Here are a few examples of how CQ allows us to compete with robots:

Reading People

One of the critical skills needed in a world characterized by robots and increased diversity is the ability to accurately read people. If you can read people, you have a secret power that will not only mean great things for your career but broaden your friendships and networks. Pretty much any job involves reading peoples’ cues and figuring out how to respond. Teachers’ ability to understand a student, graphic designers’ grasp of a client’s wishes and nurses’ conversations with patients are all affected by how accurately they read people.

This is the kind of skill that Qatar Airways has prioritized in training their cabin crew. They recognize that luxury equipment and products don’t set them apart from Emirates or Singapore Airlines. It’s the ability to provide five-star service from a crew who can read their customers and serve them with a personal touch that will truly set them apart. 

Understanding cultural values is one of the best ways to get better at reading people. It’s less important to memorize which groups have which cultural value preferences. Someone’s behavior, particularly in the work environment, maybe more strongly shaped by their organizational culture or role than their ethnic or national identity. Instead, look for cues that indicate their value preferences and respond accordingly. 

Presenting Yourself

People are reading you just as much as you’re reading them. First impressions emerge within the first seven seconds of meeting. In fact, one study found that we only have a millisecond before people size up whether we’re trustworthy.

Articles across the web repeatedly tell us the behaviors we need to make a good first impression, including how to dress, the kind of handshake to use, and what kind of informal conversation is appropriate. But these tips are biased toward certain contexts. The first time I showed up at Google with a tie on, my host said, “You need to take that off unless you want it to be cut off and added to our wall of shame.” But when I walked into Qatar Airways on a Saturday afternoon to set up for an upcoming training, I quickly observed that I was the only one in the building not wearing a suit, including others who were carrying boxes and moving tables with me. Far too much advice about professional etiquette assumes one-size-fits-all. 

Or what about small talk? One of the most significant ways we create the first impression is the communication that occurs informally when we meet someone. International students tell me that the most intimidating part of a job interview is the unscripted portion. What do you say when you’re sitting at the table waiting for the interview to start? What about when your host walks you to the elevator or has lunch with you? They’re right to be concerned. A job candidate’s likability and trustworthiness may be judged far more based on how they behave informally than during the formal interview. It’s not fair. Robots aren’t judged for their likability and trustworthiness, but we are. CQ will help you present the best version of yourself for a diversity of audiences.

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One more example of how CQ helps us compete with robots is problem-solving. I’ve always been relentless with my teams about never presenting a problem without also suggesting a solution. But problem-solving might be over-rated. Algorithms and sophisticated technology have become very good at analyzing problems and creating solutions more efficiently and accurately than humans do. And even if you don’t have a robot at your disposal, the Internet is full of information about how to solve everything from using Excel to having a difficult conversation with your boss. But where CQ is needed is in finding what the problem is in the first place, particularly if it’s a problem that hasn’t happened before and can’t be identified by running an automated diagnostic. 

We don’t have to look far to find corporate examples of failed problem-finding. Best Buy and Walmart’s failures in Western Europe stemmed from an assumption that the market wanted big box stores. Kodak, Blockbuster, Blackberry, and Nokia misread technological trends and needs. 

Unclear solutions begin as unclear problems. The ability to identify problems and come up with innovative solutions is the secret to any good business. And it’s at the core of good medicine, education, engineering, and more. The 21st Century workforce needs culturally intelligent humans who are adept at problem-finding for a diversity of people and contexts. The skills we develop to read people are the same ones we exercise to find problems—slowing down, using perspective-taking, questioning assumptions, and understanding the invisible values that shape behavior.

Always Adapting

Darwin’s 19th Century words are relevant for how we compete with robots: “It’s not the strongest that survives, not the most intelligent. It’s the one that is most adaptable to change.” If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that adaptability is critical. CQ not only makes you more competitive in the job market, but it also gives you the skills to adjust to the constantly shifting world surrounding us. Employers and universities know it. Robots know it. But do your priorities show that you know it?

[Adapted excerpt from David Livermore’s next book, due to release in 2022].



New Book on Culturally Intelligent Innovation

davidlivermore | January 18th, 2016 1 Comment

DRIVEN BY DIFFERENCE: Releases February 17
Pre order now.

driven by

The following is an excerpt from an interview about the book:

Q: What prompted you to write this book?

A: I’m insatiably curious. That’s what drives any research or writing project I pursue. And the same is true for this book. I was reviewing some of our research that revealed a troubling finding—homogenous teams often perform better than diverse teams do. Homogenous teams get things done more quickly and as a result, they consistently come up with more innovative solutions than diverse teams do when left to themselves. That’s not a very popular message in an age when everybody is talking about the importance of diversity.

However, diversity unquestionably offers a rich resource for innovative solutions. It’s just that it’s not automatic. It requires a culturally intelligent strategy for effectively using a team’s diversity to come up with more innovative solutions. Our research findings revealed some recurring practices that are essential for tapping the potential of diversity. I wasn’t content to simply see those findings reported in the tables of an academic journal. I wanted to see these insights help teams and organizations in the real world.

Q: You argue that hiring a diverse workforce is not sufficient. Why not?

A: If you’ve ever had a roommate, not to mention a spouse, you probably know the answer to this. “Different” ways of doing things is a novelty at first but under stress, differences can become the source of conflict and annoyance. It’s easier to work with people who think, act, and behave the same as us. So simply hiring a more diverse workforce is not sufficient. And it can actually make productivity and innovation worse.

Our research reveals that cultural intelligence is the moderating factor in whether diversity is an asset or liability for innovation. Cultural intelligence (CQ) is a research-based measurement that predicts how an individual will work and relate with people from different cultural backgrounds. Diverse teams comprised of members with low CQ, significantly underperform homogeneous teams. But diverse teams comprised of members with moderate or high CQ, significantly outperform homogenous teams on pretty much every measurement—not the least of which is innovation.

Q: In the book, you mention a vital area of concern – diversity fatigue. What is diversity fatigue and how should it be addressed in the workplace?

A: Many individuals, particularly in workplaces across North America and Western Europe, can’t bear the thought of one more diversity workshop. Shame and an emphasis upon punitive measures for not embracing diversity are prevalent in many approaches to this topic and that rarely brings about lasting change. Other times, diversity measures are viewed as solely being about compliance or as having little to do with bottom line results.

On a brighter note, many organizations have moved toward an emphasis on teaching about unconscious bias—the automatic impulse an individual associates with certain cultural groups. I’m a big supporter of this effort and we’ve collaborated with some of the leading researchers at Harvard in this space.

Awareness is the first step. But it’s not enough. The question I often hear is, I know my biases. So now what? This is where cultural intelligence (skills) comes in. And then teams need to develop a strategy for using a fusion of their cultural differences to drive innovative results. Together, these solutions offer a fresh, sophisticated way of approaching diversity.

Q: How did you discover the 5D Process for Culturally Intelligent Innovation?

A: As both a researcher and business leader, I’ve been helped immensely by the work of people like Clay Christiansen on disruptive innovation and the innovation models that come from Stanford’s d school. These models together with our research on cultural intelligence are what led to the discovery of the 5D process for culturally intelligent innovation.

The process includes the kinds of things included in most books and models on innovation, such as identifying a pain point, coming up with a solution to relieve that pain, and designing with the end-user in mind. What we wanted to discover however, was how those consistent innovation practices need to be adapted for a culturally diverse team of innovators or users.

For example, Jeff Bezos insists that high level meetings at Amazon include an empty chair, which represents the customer. Apart from cultural intelligence, you might assume a customer wants what you want. But by using the 5D process, a team can design for a diversity of customers. And if the room already includes a diverse team, that’s all the better because it provides built-in insights around what the customers represented by the empty chair want.

Q: What is the number one issue that derails diverse teams and how can it be overcome?

A: I think it’s the absence of a strategy for how to effectively address and use the diversity on the team. By nature, we’re attracted and drawn to people who think and act like we do so without an intentional strategy to lean into and use the differences on a team, they inevitably create conflict and gridlock.

An effective strategy begins with looking at the two forms of diversity that most powerfully influence what happens on a team—visible diversity and underrepresentation. Instead of being afraid to name the differences, a culturally intelligent strategy explicitly identifies the differences and then creates processes that minimize the interpersonal conflict that ensues from the differences and maximize the informational diversity from the team.

Apart from a strategy for how to effectively use your diversity, it’s unlikely the diversity will lead to innovation and may actually work against it.

Q: In your opinion, which companies are getting it right and how can others learn from them?

A: No leader or company gets it right all the time. In fact, mistakes are one of the best ways to improve cultural intelligence and come up with innovative solutions. But our research has uncovered dozens of companies that have worked hard at developing a strategy for culturally intelligent innovation. Several of them are featured throughout the book including Google, IKEA, Coca-Cola, Qatar Airways, and Novartis.

Novartis uses their employee resource groups to effectively design medications for culturally diverse patients. In the world of finance, you have CEOs like Ajay Banga (MasterCard) and Brian Moynihan (Bank of America) who personally chair their companies’ diversity and inclusion councils because they believe there’s a direct link between their diversity efforts internally and customer satisfaction. And despite the diversity challenges facing most tech companies, Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, says, “One of the secret sauces for Alibaba’s success is that we have a lot of women.” Women hold 47 percent of all jobs at Alibaba and 33 percent of all senior positions.

Q: If readers took only one thing away from the book, what would you hope it would be?

A: It’s my hope that all of us will slow down the impulse to view a different perspective as threatening, wrong, or inferior and instead, to see it as an opportunity for growth.

In those moments when we see things differently from those around us, we have a few choices: We can hold on to our views, defend them, and argue for their superiority. We can let go of our views and entirely acquiesce to the views of others. Or we can allow our perspectives to be broadened, enriched, expanded, and deepened. Culturally intelligent innovation begins with changing our impulse from Why can’t you see it like I do? to Help me see what I might be missing! Together, we can work together to come up with innovative solutions to solve problems big and small.

The Power of Attention for Culturally Intelligent Innovation

davidlivermore | December 14th, 2015 No Comments


driven by

At the end of January, our new book on culturally intelligent innovation will be available in bookstores everywhere. This month’s article is an excerpt from Part 1 in the book.

If you buy a silver Honda, you start seeing silver Hondas everywhere. It’s not that there are really any more silver Hondas on the road. But this simple reality demonstrates the power of the mind to more readily notice whatever you’ve been thinking about most. And the more you think about diversity and innovation, the better your climate for culturally intelligent innovation.

Your life has largely been fashioned by what you’ve paid attention to and what you haven’t. If you paid attention to other things, your reality and life would be very different. And a great deal of research supports that we become what we practice. If you develop patterns of being mean and nasty, you will get mean and nastier. If you practice being kind and caring, you will get kinder and more caring.[1] The same is true for an organization. The behaviors and respective priorities of a company or university shape what and how they operate. Our individual and organizational personalities become a composite of the things that grab our attention.

If you still aren’t convinced of the power of attention, how does your back feel right now? That information was available to you all the time you were reading the previous paragraphs but it’s only when it’s brought to your attention that you bring it up to the level of awareness. When you’re driving and you become engrossed in the news or a conversation on your phone, you become less aware of the scenery. You’ve turned down the sight dial in your brain so that you can allow the auditory inputs to capture your attention. And according to something psychologists call negative bias theory, you pay more attention to unpleasant feelings such as fear, anger, or the annoyance of a bad driver than to positive emotions because the negative ones are more powerful.[2] Negative bias theory has enormous implications for a culturally diverse team. Imagine a team meeting that includes a working lunch together. Because we’re socialized to eat in a certain way, watching someone eat in a different way can be jarring and strike us as rude or even barbaric. If you’ve learned that good manners includes closing your mouth when you eat or breaking off small pieces of a bread roll rather than picking up the whole thing, seeing someone deviate from those norms immediately surfaces on our attention. But when people eat like we expect them to eat, their behavior largely goes unnoticed. You’re unlikely to notice when someone eats “politely” but you’ll most definitely notice when they don’t. Good manners, respect, and appropriate professional behavior are culturally bound.

Beware of too quickly assuming someone isn’t acting professional or demonstrating confidence. Similarly, we’re less likely to notice a colleague’s cultural differences when things are going well. He’s just “John” or “Jose” when you’re working without any conflict. But when something negative occurs, the first impulse is to view John or Jose in light of his culture. Suddenly the thinking becomes: You just can’t trust people from that culture because they end up letting you down. Giving undue attention to negative feelings shrinks your world and your breadth of perspective. Focus on the positive and you’ll expand your view. This is the power of attention.[3]

How to Pay Attention to Culturally Intelligent Innovation
Your mind is your most powerful asset for innovation. Spend time thinking about innovation and it will help foster creative breakthroughs for diverse users. Maintaining and developing a climate of culturally intelligent innovation among a multicultural team requires a deliberate, ongoing effort. Our attention and therefore our companies are easily distracted. But there are a few practices that can help.

Map Your Differences
Start by paying attention to your differences rather than tolerating or overlooking them. Identify each team member’s differences. Create a list with names and the most relevant differences they bring to the team. Start with the two kinds of diversity that are most relevant for how you work together: visible diversity and underrepresented groups. Consider other differences that might also be relevant such as personality styles, skills, industries previously worked in etc.

Many of the organizations we work with use each individual’s cultural value scores from the CQ Assessment reports to create a team list that everyone posts by their desks. That gives each person a visible reminder of the different values and orientations each team member brings to the team.

Prime for Innovation
Priming is the process of presenting a particular stimulus to make us feel and act in a certain way, such as a supermarket that puts “freshly cut” flowers at the entrance of the store so you think of freshness from the moment you enter. To what degree do people across your organization share a vision for innovation and looking ahead? And to what degree is diversity consciously linked to innovation as a resource for new ideas?

The most important way to prime for culturally intelligent innovation is for the leadership to surround themselves with a diversity of perspectives, utilizing that breadth to drive their own innovative approaches. Innovation needs to be built into every person’s role and across all the systems and processes for product development and implementation. Images, signs, town hall meetings, and written messaging need to be used to keep everyone’s attention on the customers of tomorrow.

Become conscious of blind spots
Tap into the power of attention by becoming more aware of your subconscious. Take one of the tests at Project Implicit and consider which groups of people you find most difficult to trust. How might that difficultly connect to a deeply rooted bias? And how might it be closing you off from innovative breakthroughs? By becoming more aware of unconscious bias, you begin to retrain the mind to open yourself and others up to learning from the perspectives of others whom you may otherwise tune out.

Train yourself (and others) to think differently
The brain is an amazing organ. And we can train it to be consciously thinking about innovation through things as simple as taking a different route to work or shifting around our morning routine. One of the best ways to consciously innovate is to disrupt your habits at least once a day. Make a habit of forcing yourself out of autopilot. Change up your morning routine. Drive to work a different way. Work from a different space. Don’t always run your meetings the same way or in the same place. When your team comes up with a solution, stop and ask each other whether this is the best option or whether a third alternative is worth exploring.

Beware your gut
The gut can be a shockingly reliable mechanism for decision-making because our subconscious has been programmed over time. When assessing a familiar situation, the gut often leads to a better result than spending hours reviewing pros and cons. But the gut is subject to enormous error when the cultural context changes and as a result innovative solutions are often missed. Consult with others and consciously suspend trusting your gut. Questions your assumptions and proactively seek out third-way solutions.

Paying attention to culturally intelligent innovation is not enough. You also need to develop a process for effectively leveraging the diversity on your team to come up with more innovation solutions. But there’s tremendous power in what we pay attention to and what we don’t. You can’t force yourself or anyone else to have eureka moments. But the degree to which you consciously utilize the diversity around you and explore creative solutions is directly tied to the probability of producing innovative results.


Portions of this article excerpted from Chapter 2 of Driven By Difference: How Global Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity. Download a sample chapter and pre-order your copy now.


Advance Praise:

“This book provides a compelling and refreshingly practical account of how and when to use ‘CQ’ to drive higher levels of innovation performance.”
— Paul Polman, CEO Unilever

“Livermore makes a strong, science-based case for why diversity and cultural intelligence matter more than you think. Rooted in research and amplified with powerful case studies and examples, this book is an essential read for those hoping to leverage an increasingly diverse workforce to drive innovation.”
— Daniel H. Pink, author of TO SELL IS HUMAN and DRIVE

“This book is a must read for any leader wishing to develop more culturally innovative teams and organizations.  Dr. Livermore’s in-depth research provides the missing link to diversity efforts that are not being fully leveraged.”
— Andrea Kelton-Harris, Sr. Diversity Leader, Harvard University

“Filled with numerous examples and straight talk on how to drive culturally intelligent innovation, Driven by Difference should be mandatory reading for your entire team. ”
— David Butler, Vice President of Innovation, Coca-Cola

“Driven by Difference presents an intriguing, compelling, and thought-provoking approach to unleashing the creative and innovative potential of diverse teams.”
Anthony Mayo, Director of Leadership Initiative, Harvard Business School

“For more than two decades, there has been a discussion of the link between diversity and innovation. This book succeeds at advancing our knowledge of this link by providing the frameworks and practices that guide us to think and act culturally intelligent as we leverage diversity to innovate.”
–Lynn Wooten, PhD, Associate Dean, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

“Through concrete research and real life examples from across the globe, David Livermore’s new book shows us how diversity can be consciously linked to innovation.”
Anindita Banerjee, PhD, Renaissance Strategic Consultants, India

[1] Susan Smalley & Diana Winston, Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness, (Philadelphia: Lifelong Books), 2010, 134.

[2] John F. Pratto, Automatic vigilance: The attention grabbing of negative, social information, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61 (1991): 380-391.

[3] Barbara Fredrickson, Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive, New York: Crown, 2009.

What Diversity Matters Most?

davidlivermore | September 15th, 2015 2 Comments


I welcome the way many organizations have broadened the definition of “diversity” to go beyond skin color and nationality. Diversity of thought, work style, function, age, and much more are all relevant forms of difference. But not all diversity is equal.

The two forms of diversity that typically create the most challenges and opportunities for workplaces and schools are visible diversity and underrepresentation. That doesn’t mean that other forms of diversity are irrelevant. But two forms of diversity are most important.

1. Visible Diversity
First, visible diversity, which refers to those differences, which can immediately be observed when looking at someone. This includes differences that stem from ethnicity, gender, age, physical disabilities, and sometimes religion—such as a woman wearing a head covering. It’s very difficult to disguise these differences and as a result, they immediately influence the snap judgments that are made.

An individual with low CQ may claim that one’s visible differences are irrelevant to him. Did she do her job competently or not? But thousands of studies consistently confirm that we implicitly favor people who look similar to us. It’s not so much that we feel explicit hatred or dislike toward others, it’s that we reserve our admiration, sympathy and trust for our in-group.

What’s remarkable is how slight the similarity needs to be for a sense of trust and attraction to occur. Brett Pelham is renowned for his research on this tendency to favor people with even the slightest similarities to ourselves. Women are more likely to marry men who share the first letter of their maiden name. People named Louis are more likely to live in St. Louis, just as people named Paul, Mary, and Helen are more likely to live in St. Paul, St. Mary, and St. Helen. So when we see people who “look like us”, our default response is to view them as more trustworthy than individuals who look different from us.

This is why the research and training on unconscious bias is incredibly relevant for developing cultural intelligence. By becoming more aware of our unconscious biases, we can better manage our implicit assumptions.

2. Underrepresentation
The second form of diversity that is most relevant is any person from a culture that is underrepresented in a group, something Rosabeth Kanter calls tokenism. Tokens are members of a subgroup that represent less than 15 percent of the whole group and the disproportionate representation skews the ways they’re perceived. Being the only Southerner on a team of Northerners, the only marketer on a team of engineers, or the only “foreigner” in a department highlights cultural differences that might otherwise be overlooked. The dominant group will be inclined to assume that an unusual behavior by an individual from an underrepresented group is “cultural” but that might not be the case at all.

Humans of New York recently featured a young Pakistani woman who describes her experience studying at a small college in Minnesota:

“I never feel completely at ease because there are only three Pakistanis at my school, and I feel that everything I do reflects on my family, my religion, and my country. I feel pressured to always be exceedingly polite and well behaved, even when I don’t feel like it…[in Pakistan] I feel like my actions only reflect on me.”

Many individuals reflect both forms of diversity, such as being the only person of color on a team, and thereby finding yourself to be both visibly different and as one of the underrepresented team members. But underrepresentation is also a factor for people with cultural differences that aren’t as visible, such as a having a sexual orientation, ideology, socioeconomic status or level of tenure that deviates from the dominant norm in a group. An underrepresented group could also be a majority group that has limited power and voice such as what black South Africans experienced for many years. Underrepresentation is context-specific. Men are underrepresented among HR professionals and women are underrepresented among engineers. Each organization and team will need to consider what groups are underrepresented in their contexts.

What ultimately matters is not the source of diversity but the different values and perspectives that emerge from it. The more diversity you have within an organization, the more ideas there are for how things should be done. The differences that most strongly influence innovation, project management, and accomplishing objectives are the varied approaches for communicating, planning, and executing tasks. How do you align the values, expectations, and work styles of four generations, dozens of nationalities, and endless subcultures toward a universal vision and strategy for the organization? Answering that question is at the crux of our work on cultural intelligence because our interest has been to improve effectiveness working across cultural value differences. And it’s why our CQ Assessments include feedback on one’s individual cultural value orientations.

A broadened understanding of diversity is useful. Just beware. If diversity includes everything, it ends up meaning nothing. Organizations that intentionally develop a strategy for drawing on the insights and perspectives of staff who are visibly different and underrepresented have a key advantage for knowing how to effectively serve culturally diverse populations.

**Portions of this article excepted from David Livermore’s upcoming book Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation through Diversity (AMACOM, releases early 2016). The book features our latest research on the connections between diversity, CQ, and innovation.

High CQ Prepares Youth to Compete with Robots for Jobs

davidlivermore | 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.

Sit Still and Improve Your CQ: The Power of Reflection

davidlivermore | 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.

New Study Reveals International Travelers Receive More Job Offers

davidlivermore | April 14th, 2014 1 Comment

Augustine of Hippo said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Now, a new study led by INSEAD professor William W. Maddux reveals that those who travel receive more job opportunities than those who don’t.

Maddux et. al conducted a longitudinal study and discovered that an MBA student’s intercultural experiences predicted the number of job offers received, even when controlling for variables like demographics, personality etc. Students who adapted to and learned about new cultures engaged in job interviews more creatively and demonstrated more openness and initiative. They were seen as being able to bring seemingly unrelated ideas together into meaningful wholes. As a result, these students were able to successfully navigate the interview process and received more job offers.[1]

Some of the most promising correlations found between international travel and job prospects are:

1. Stronger Sense of Self
Travel provides the opportunity to become aware of your own values and priorities. You’re forced to differentiate between your culture of origin, the cultures you encounter, and your self-identity. Organizations want to hire professionals who are self-aware.

2. Increased Trust
Another study found that how much you trust a stranger is positively correlated to the number of places you’ve traveled. The job candidates who traveled most broadly were most likely to trust someone they didn’t know.[2] Companies want team members who can develop trusting relationships across virtual and international borders.

3. Creativity and Problem-Solving
Intercultural experiences provide a laboratory for improved creativity and problem solving. In a new environment, everyday tasks have to be done differently and there’s an opportunity to observe people using alternative approaches from what’s familiar.[3] A proven ability to innovate sets you apart from other job candidates.

But…not all travel experiences are equal!
Travel does not by itself ensure improved cultural intelligence (CQ) or increased job offers. Several important variables make the difference:

The nature of the experience
If business travelers spend all their time at international hotels and offices; and if study abroad students spend most of their free time on Skype and Facebook, travel may have little positive benefit for improving CQ and career opportunities. Or if charitable volunteers overlook the positive aspects of the locals they encounter, the exposure can perpetuate ethnocentrism and narrow thinking. But those who venture out on their own to discover the food, transportation and people of the places they visit are very likely to enhance their CQ.[4]

The number of experiences
Individuals with multiple experiences in a variety of places experience more of the benefits of travel than those who have only been in one or two places. And the more countries where you’ve lived for more than a year, the more positive connection there is between your international experience, your CQ, and your career development.[5]

Childhood experiences play less role in developing CQ than adult experiences where we make our own choices about travel, work, and interactions. But exposing kids can be very influential. The key is helping youth use the opportunity to build their own sense of self and view of the world.

The Cultural Interpreter
Whatever the age of the experience, a key variable is who helps you interpret it. If parents, faculty, youth leaders, or colleagues only point out negative aspects of a culture, travel might actually erode CQ rather than improve it. The individual who interprets what’s going on makes all the difference in whether the experience provides positive benefits or not.

Reflection and De-Brief
Many study abroad programs, expat assignments, and charitable mission trips emphasize pre-trip training. But the most important insights come from reflecting in the midst of the overseas experience and upon re-entry back home.

Simply listing international travel as a part of your resume is unlikely to yield many benefits in a job-search. But using travel to expand your view of self, integrate seemingly disparate parts, and creatively solve problems allows you to stand apart from other candidates who have traveled abroad without “seeing” anything.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

[1] W. Maddux, E. Bivolaur, A. Hafenbrqack, C. Tadmor, & A. Galinsky. Expanding Opportunities by Opening Your Mind:Multicultural Engagement Predicts Job Market Success Through Longitudinal Increases in Integrative Complexity, Social Psychological and Personality Science, December 2013.

[2] J. Cao, A. Galinsky, & W. Maddux, Does Travel Broaden the Mind? The Breadth of Foreign Experiences Increases Generalized Trust. Social Psychology and Personality Science, December 2013.

[3] R. Nouri,, M. Erez, M., T Rockstuhl, S. Ang, L. Leshem-Calif, & A. Rafaeli, A. (forthcoming). Taking the bite out of culture: The impact of task structure and task type on overcoming impediments to cross-cultural team performance. Journal of Organizational Behavior and R. Chua, M. Morris, & S. Mor, Collaborating across cultures: Cultural metacognition and affect-based trust in creative collaboration, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 118 (2012) 116–131.

[4] C. Tay, M Westman, & A, Chia, Antecedents and Consequences of Cultural Intelligence among short-term business travelers, 126-144; S. Ang, L. Van Dyne, C. Koh, K.Y. Ng, K.J. Templer, C. Tay, & N.A. Chandrasekar. Cultural Intelligence: Its measurement and effects on cultural judgment and decision making, cultural adaptation, and task performance. Management and Organization Review, (2007) 3, 335-371.

[5] E. Shokef & M. Erea, Cultural Intelligence and Global Identity in Multicultural Teams, in S. Ang and L. Van Dyne (Eds.), Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008), 180.

How Facebook Develops its Global Leaders

davidlivermore | October 18th, 2013 5 Comments

[Excerpt from upcoming global issue in People & Strategy Journal]

I recently sat down with Bill McLawhon, head of leadership development at Facebook and a seasoned executive coach….First a little context: Many of Facebook’s nearly 5,300 staff are under the age of 30. It’s a company Bill describes as being “hierarchical and title-agnostic”. But don’t expect one more boomer rant about narcissistic, entitled Millennials from Bill.

So how does the first Millennial-run organization to hit the Fortune 500 develop its global leaders?

Silicon Valley has a reputation—young, entitled engineers who don’t believe they have a whole lot to learn from seasoned, corporate leaders. To what degree is that fair and how, if at all, does this influence the way you develop leaders at Facebook?

Bill: As a 56-year-old guy, I went through a period where I looked at these young kids and thought, “Wait until you get your butt kicked out in the real world.” But I quickly realized this is the real world. And they’re making it their own. This is the future of work. It doesn’t look much like the world of work where I started. But I’m completely awed by the high performing individuals I get to coach everyday, most of whom are young enough to be my kids.

Our whole approach to leadership development at Facebook is coherent with the fact that we’re an engineering company to the core, and we’re led and run by Millennials. We have no interest in a competency-based model of leadership. That doesn’t fit who we are. Our engineering, Millennial roots shape who we are from top to bottom.

How does that shape the way you approach leadership development?

Bill: Engineers are trained to be skeptics. As a result, you see an embedded-skepticism all across the company. There’s zero tolerance for talking heads. The driving question is “What works?” There are posters all over campus that say things like, “Move fast and break things” and “Done is better than perfect.” Our engineering DNA shapes everything we do, including leadership development.

How do you convince engineering techies that soft skills like cultural intelligence matter?

Bill: I haven’t thought about my coaching work as providing “soft skills” in a long time because there’s a hunger for these kinds of skills by our people. We’re an extremely flat, meritocratic company. So it’s impossible to get anything done unless you have the ability to influence and inspire people. You can’t run to a boss and have them issue a mandate to get something done. You’re going to have to figure out how to get it done yourself. So I don’t have to convince leaders at Facebook that they need these capabilities. They almost unconsciously know that these skills are the only way to get things done in such a flat, meritocratic organization.

I was surprised to learn that 70% of your users are outside North America. How does your global presence influence the way you recruit and develop leaders?

Bill: The percentage of users outside North America is steadily growing. I expect that most of Facebook’s second and third billion users will come from the developing world, where access to the web is through simple, mobile devices with low cost access to data.

These global realties significantly influence what we do all across the company. We’re increasing our global footprint with data centers, engineering offices and sales offices placed in strategic hubs around the world. And we’re creating teams in those regions that reflect the cultural complexion of the region. Most of our international offices are made up of local talent, with a few expats from other regions brought in when a specific expertise is needed.

Headquarters remains in Menlo Park but we’re looking at how to avoid a purely unidirectional flow—from Menlo Park to our global regions. Instead, we’re creating ways for a parallel flow of information, strategies, and leadership that goes both ways. This might include having a functional head based in a place like Mumbai who manages a team located around the world, including individuals in Menlo Park.

You’ve described a very strong culture at Facebook—hierarchy-agnostic, fast, autonomous, no victims/excuses, take risks etc.  Many of these values are diametrically opposite to the core values of most developing world cultures. How is that influencing your approach to leadership development globally?

Bill:  You’re absolutely right and I know this can be an issue. We’ve already observed it among some of our teams. We want to find the right individuals globally who are culturally synchronous with both their local context and Facebook. It won’t work if they can’t bridge both cultures.

We’ll cease to be Facebook if we eliminate all our core values from how we operate. But we’re conscious of this challenge and it’s one of the things that we’ll be prioritizing most this next year —how do we develop high performing teams who can effectively utilize our diversity across the world to make even greater impact?

Read the full interview with Bill McLawhon as well as a series of articles on culturally intelligent leadership in the upcoming issue of People & Strategy Journal.

Bill McLawhon is Head of Leadership Development at Facebook and oversees the coaching process across the company. Prior to coming to Facebook, Bill spent 13 years coaching executives within High Tech, Bio Tech and Financial Services, following a VP position at Charles Schwab & Co. When he isn’t keeping up with Millennials at Facebook, he enjoys cooking Indian food, spending time in Paris and Kauai, and thinking about what’s coming in the world of work.

Using “What If” Questions to Prepare International Travelers

davidlivermore | May 21st, 2013 3 Comments

My 15 year-old-daughter is preparing to travel to Thailand by herself next month. Emily has often heard me say that international travel is more likely to increase adolescents’ cultural intelligence (CQ) when they travel without their parents or friends. So she decided to see if my wife and I really believe that. I’m thrilled and her mother is a little freaked out. But we all agree this will be a great learning experience for her. In a few weeks, Emily will be flying to the other side of the world without us.

  • Many companies rotate high potential leaders from one global assignment to another, as preparation for being senior leaders in the organization.
  • University and high school students study abroad as a way to get an edge on others in the college and job market.
  • And volunteers travel overseas with the hopes that they can combine service with a life changing opportunity.

But is there any evidence that international travel will increase CQ? Absolutely! But there’s also evidence that international travel can decrease CQ. What makes the difference?

Few things have greater potential to increase CQ than the hands-on experience of international travel. But it’s a correlation, not a causation. How you travel, where you spend time, the nature of your interactions, and the way you make meaning from the experiences makes all the difference in whether international experience improves your CQ or not. In fact, international experience can actually decrease CQ and perpetuate ethnocentrism if not done well. Have you ever met an expat or short-term missionary who didn’t have high CQ? Enough said.

It starts before ever leaving home. I’m actually not too worked up over whether people should spend vast amounts of time doing pre-departure training and orientation. It can certainly be helpful. But what’s most important is some thoughtful anticipation about the cross-cultural experience and how to learn from it.

Emily scores pretty high on our CQ Assessment when it comes to CQ Drive—the level of interest, drive, and confidence to adapt to intercultural situations. She grew up traveling internationally, she loves to be immersed in different cultures, and she’s been learning about Thai culture and studying the language. But our way of orienting her for her overseas experience has been a bit different. I’ve been throwing her a series of “What if” questions.

What if you arrive at the airport and our Thai friends’ who are supposed to meet you aren’t there? “That’s easy” she said. “I’ll just text them.” To which I said, “Okay. But what if your phone doesn’t work?”  “Then I’ll use a payphone,” she replied.

My next challenge: “Okay, but you don’t have any Thai money.” To which she said, “I’ll just exchange some.” But I kept pushing her: “The person at the currency exchange tells you they aren’t allowed to exchange money to minors. Then what?”

I’m trying to get her to come up with solutions for the kinds of things she could experience cross-culturally.

Emily is crazy about animals. In fact, at some point during her visit to Thailand, she’ll be joining a group to learn how to provide veterinary care to animals after a natural disaster. I asked her, “What if you’re visiting a hill tribe village and they serve you dog? What will you do?” She decided she would push the meat around for awhile and make it look like she had eaten it. But she couldn’t live with herself if she actually ate it. I’m not sure that strategy will work but it’s not a bad response. I want her to know that cultural intelligence doesn’t mean abandoning everything she values and believes.

“What if a group of your peers start making fun of a Buddhist monk walking by. What will you say?” We talked about the importance of applying cultural intelligence to both her peers and the local culture. And she practiced some responses of what she would say and how they might respond.

I’m less concerned about the precision of her answers. And I’m more interested in getting her to see that there are very real cultural dilemmas she’s likely to face and to give her some practice anticipating how to respond.

This has been a fun, engaging way for our family to interact together about Emily’s upcoming trip. And it taps into our research findings that cultural understanding is more likely to be improved and applied when it’s relevant to the individual and situation. This is why groups like McDonalds have reduced the amount of training they do before their global leaders are assigned overseas; instead, they provide them with a CQ coach after they arrive who meets with them regularly to interact about the real-life cultural dilemmas they’re encountering.

We continue to research how business travelers, study abroad students, and charitable volunteers can best use international travel to increase their CQ. If they simply stay in establishments where the staff have been trained to adapt to our every whim, it’s unlikely they’re getting a true glimpse of the local culture. And when they travel with friends, peers from school, or family, it takes extra effort to have any meaningful interaction with people outside the built-in networks brought along. And if the people they spend time with when they’re abroad offer a skewed interpretation of what’s going on, they can come home with a very inaccurate perspective.

But when international experience is combined with active engagement (e.g. jumping on public transit, walking through the market, and having dinner with locals at their favorite haunt) and thoughtful reflection (e.g. looking for what is similar/different from home; suspending judgment about what certain behaviors mean, having a cultural coach who accurately helps you process what you experience), it’s the most powerful way to improve CQ.

How do you leverage the potential of international travel?

Why You Need an Empty Chair at Important Meetings

davidlivermore | April 15th, 2013 No Comments

It’s widely known that Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, frequently leaves one open seat at the company’s most important meetings. It’s there to remind his fellow executives and managers of the most important person in the room—the customer.

Forbes reports that Amazon tracks its performance against five hundred measurable goals. Nearly 80 percent relate to customer objectives.

But if the people at the meeting don’t have cultural intelligence, it’s unlikely the chair will be of much benefit. The participants will simply assume the person represented by the empty chair values what they do. And if everyone in the meeting comes from the same cultural background, it’s going to be tough to get a grasp of preferences and opinions of the customer.

So go ahead and add an empty chair to your most important meetings. But don’t stop with that. To make the most of this creative practice, follow these “empty chair” guidelines:

1. Break the Golden Rule: Remind everyone in the meeting that their own values and perspectives can’t be applied to all customers. Treating everyone with kindness and respect is an aspect of the Golden Rule we can all embrace. But there are a thousand different interpretations of what kindness and respect look like, largely shaped by one’s cultural background. It’s an elementary point, but one that is quickly forgotten: Don’t assume everyone wants what you want.

2. Focus: Most of our organizations aren’t trying to become the earth’s largest retail machine (a.k.a. Amazon). So who is the primary target related to today’s conversation? Who isn’t? How much do you know about them? The days of mass marketing are long over. Every choice is a renunciation. To focus on one type of customer is to renounce a thousand others. What are the specific needs and desires of this target audience and how will today’s agenda address those?

3. Perspective-Taking: The empty chair assumes people in the meeting are adept at perspective-taking: the ability to step outside their own experience and imagine the perceptions and motivations of another. This means being able to predict:

  • What does our customer (or prospective customer) value?
  • What’s going on in her mind?
  • What would she say about the ideas we’re discussing right now?

As you improve CQ Knowledge—an understanding of how culture influences the way people think and behave—your team can more accurately predict the perspective of culturally diverse customers. And this understanding needs to be based upon empirical research. Avoid letting meeting participants describe the behaviors of all teenagers based upon their child’s behavior or declaring what Indian women think based upon what their friend is like. What does research reveal about the dominant norms among these various subcultures?

4. Adjust Perspectives: Make this a dynamic, ongoing process. Based upon further observations, emerging trends, and real-life interactions with customers, move beyond broad assumptions to more specific insights about your target group. Norms about Hispanic men, Chinese-American women, or millennials provide a good hypothesis for predicting what these customers will want. But be open to adapting those insights.  And find ways to fill the chair with live customers from time-to-time to get their first hand input.

The obsession to understand the customer gives Amazon the confidence to innovate freely without fretting about short-term results. Bezos says. “We don’t focus on the optics of the next quarter; we focus on what is going to be good for customers.”

Without cultural intelligence, there’s little benefit from adopting this Amazon practice. But an empty chair + cultural intelligence is a smart, strategic way to keep your meetings focused on the most important people your organization exists to serve.