Cultural quotient or cultural intelligence (CQ) is increasingly being seen as of far more value than IQ (intelligence quotient), and of equal importance in business to its counterpart emotional intelligence (EQ), because of its proven exponential positive impact on improved teamwork, performance, cooperation and communication.

CQ assesses far beyond simple cultural sensitivity and awareness and is a globally recognised measure of how good we are at understanding cultural differences including, but not limited to, nationality, ethnicity, culture, location, gender and age. CQ helps us understand the decisions people and organisations make and how they are influenced by their beliefs, attitudes, and values.

Thom Dennis, CEO of culture integration and change specialists, Serenity in Leadership, and a CQ Certified Facilitator, believes that CQ is more important than IQ, and building a team rich in CQ is the future for all successful organisations. “Culturally intelligent organisations establish better trust, tolerance and understanding, both internally and externally. They are more capable of working well across cultures because they understand the impact of cultural background in terms of both an individual’s and group’s behaviour which is essential for good business. These businesses will enjoy the benefits of both better productivity, diversity, negotiation skills, recruitment and performance, as well as reduced talent loss, bias and conflict.

“At an individual level if you have strong cultural intelligence, you are likely to engage and blend successfully in any environment or social setting, communicate more effectively, quickly develop rapport and connect with others, lead diverse teams effectively, appreciate diverse points of view and adapt easily. Cultural nuances are better understood because these individuals have the skills, knowledge, agility and experience to deal with, and respect any differences that to someone else might be perceived or acted upon as if it is a barrier.

“CQ is increasingly important as businesses harness the benefits of global work through technological and communication advances. Whilst some will argue the increase in online meetings during the pandemic has been draining, it has also opened the door to many as travelling for face-to-face business is often no longer seen as essential.  Global online meetings have instead become easier to arrange which further elevates the importance of inclusive cultures.”

Ang and Van Dyne developed the four main capabilities that describe CQ:-

  • CQ Drive or Motivation measures your interest and confidence in multicultural interactions.
  • CQ Knowledge or Cognition looks at your understanding of the similarities and differences between cultures, rather than for example personality differences.
  • CQ Strategy or Metacognition is how you plan and deal with multicultural interactions to build better relationships.
  • CQ Action or Behaviour is your agility to reflect and adapt when working in a multicultural environment.

CQ can be worked on and developed on both an individual and organisational level and can be measured based on 10 key and mappable cultural values including Low vs. High Uncertainty Avoidance, Cooperative vs. Competitive, Linear vs. Non-Linear and Being vs. Doing.

Thom Dennis continues: “When an organisation decides to improve their CQ, issues can then be addressed through intentional, innovative recruitment and learning strategies, and engaging, research-based profiling, workshops, courses, coaching and digital tools.  Having a culturally intelligent workforce is not only hugely beneficial but fundamental to business in this day and age.”

So how can we begin to develop our own cultural intelligence? Here are some of Thom Dennis’s tips.

  • Demonstrate self-awareness and awareness for others. Reflect on how your own cultural background and experiences have shaped your perspective, as well as how other people’s behaviours are influenced by their culture and experiences. Look for similarities and differences in these. Be cognisant that not everyone thinks in the same way. One size does not fit all.
  • Establish common ground. Discover a common ground that helps you to connect with others. This leads to a greater understanding of who they are and is a great way to form mutual bonds as it fosters trust and respect and can lift communication barriers.
  • Enter situations without preconceptions. Keep an objective perspective in multi-cultural situations. Refrain from being judgemental.
  • Show curiosity and acceptance for other cultures. Do this by asking questions and trying to understand situations from another’s perspective to help with your learning. Share a little about yourself too.
  • Be aware of your own bias. Develop a sense of awareness about your own biases and practise strategies for overcoming these. Bias prevents us being informed.


CQ® is a registered trademark of the Cultural Intelligence Center.