This is a summary of a portion of a Power Talk at the Women in Tech Conference in Silicon Valley in April, 2018:
According to the International Labor Union, 90 percent of executives from 68 countries identify cross-cultural effectiveness as their top management challenge. Seventy percent of international ventures fail because of cultural differences.
Many of us notice that diversity is a big issue in terms of defining success and gaining respect. By the way, when I say diversity, I am not only thinking about race and gender, but also the richness of cultures. And that is why, it is more important than ever that we discuss what are the best approaches we, as women entrepreneurs, can take to the next level, so we cannot just succeed in our own culture, but, globally.
Not so long ago, IQ and EQ was seen as essential for success and leadership in a single market. But once you start going across borders and working in different cultures in different countries, you need cultural intelligence (CQ). CQ is the capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts. Organizations across the globe use CQ based interventions in at least six ways.
A good place to start is to recognize the potential of cultural diversity and then build leadership development programs to drive new business initiatives. This requires recruiters to find high achieving individuals globally. These recruiters need to be trained, too. That leads to a better understanding of different customers around the world. And this will have a significant impact on sales, marketing, and customer service efforts.
Some companies expand through mergers and acquisitions. But just because you bought a foreign company, does not necessarily guarantee its ongoing success, especially if you lack CQ.
Many companies have teams that are dispersed around the world, and the most obvious challenge is the time zone difference. But whether you manage a team or are preparing executives for overseas assignments and relocation, there are many more nuances to consider in global projects.
One of the key thought leaders on CQ, David Livermore, has the four key pillars about CQ: Drive, Knowledge, Strategy, and Action.
CQ Drive: What is my motivation to understand different cultures? Do I desire to take international assignment?
CQ Knowledge: If you have the drive to work in China, do you understand that the Chinese culture is collectivist, hierarchical, and indirect, while American culture is individualist, egalitarian, and direct? How deeply do you understand it？
CQ Strategy: Strategy refers to one’s awareness and ability to plan for cultural interactions. For example, at Yingfluence, after we trained professionals in multiple countries and cultures, we decided to build a global cultural broker system which allows young professionals to connect with global thought leaders and foster cultural intelligence and business partnerships.
CQ Action is your ability to adapt. What you actually do when you are in an intercultural situation.
These four pillars that I just mentioned are what I would describe as CQ 1.0.
But there is more, the era of digitalization in the past few years has been disruptive in many ways. Social media has amplified and accelerated volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).
Today, Yingfluence is introducing Digital Cultural Intelligence, what we call “CQ 2.0.” It is essential for next-generation leaders to navigate and succeed in today’s high-speed and interconnected world.
I am going to illustrate CQ 2.0 with three stories. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Let’s meet Er Na, a modern thought leader who has a sophisticated understanding of where and how she receives and engages with news, information, and other online content. When she gets up in the morning, instead of passively accepting information across different media platforms, she chooses to curate what she consumes. She is highly aware that in today’s era, there are many channels and algorithms trying to manipulate and monetize her attention. We all know about apps and what they are doing with our data. She knows the risks associated with instant gratification and being fed content that will bypass her rational mind. Therefore, she has developed an absolute discipline in choosing how she wants to “be influenced.” From selecting reputable information from a diverse range, to critically consuming the content from many apps, she distinguishes between facts and opinion. Because she understands what she consumes on the Internet affects what she is given in the future.
This is what Digital Cultural Intelligence is all about. And it is more important than ever for us to understand it now.
Meet Uzilet, a businesswoman who loves traveling and connecting with people from different cultures. Wherever she goes, no matter how short her stay, she quickly identifies the local people who she can be friends with and adds them on her Wechat or LinkedIn. Her residence might be in a small town in China or in a big city like San Francisco. When she returns home, she knows whenever she logs into her social network, she can always stay in touch with people from different cultures.
Some people observe the daily lives and local news from their friends’ posts. But, Uzilet is also good at spotting the risks and opportunities in each culture she is connected with. After living in Brazil, she can see how corruption and protests affect investments. She also tracks influential business conferences both in China and the U.S. and decides which to attend. She applies diversity thinking to be self-aware of biases that could impact important decisions. In this way, she essentially creates a customized global intelligence network that helps her grow cultural intelligence, empathy, and opportunities. And that is very important for today’s entrepreneurs.
Do not underestimate the power of cross-cultural connections. Little by little, it shapes our decision-making abilities, which are critical to our well-being and success in life.
Meet Serena, when she was in her early twenties, she was sent to Brazil to teach a group of business executives who were much older and more experienced than herself. She found it challenging in the beginning but eventually she transformed herself and was empowered. How? She chose to put her curiosity and courage on the forefront and learn as much as possible every time she engaged with people of different generations. And as a result, her students learned a lot of what is going on with the world from her “young” perspective. Later on, because of this experience, she was able to achieve greater performance by drawing on the different experiences of people at different stages of their career.
People at different stages of life bring a variety of perspectives and experiences—we should create more dialogue and engagement between them. But what generally happens is people stay in their comfort zone with their peers from their own generation, which reinforces existing biases. Yet, generational diversity brings youth and experience together, which is a powerful combination. The younger generation is full of fresh and creative ideas. Older generations have resources and composure. These characteristics are highly complementary and, when combined, form an ideal mix.
By 2025, three out of every four employees will be Millennials. Different generations should find ways to work together despite their differences in life stages and work styles. But many organizations are not prepared for the impact generational diversity will have on workplace interactions, collaboration, and productivity.
This is not just about enhancing workplace culture to drive business success, but essentially, it is about you as an individual exploring all kinds of possibilities in life as a leader.
Women around the world, who are equipped with CQ 2.0, truly know how to influence and how not to be influenced.
Saying yes to cross-cultural connection could empower every one of us to lead and succeed globally.