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Diverse Ethics - Atul Shah - Wisdom Blog

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VALUING CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE

The news in the press today, following David Cameron’s speech about more women in the Boardroom, is depressing. Yes we need more women, but what we also need is a Board which has a global mindset and the cultural intelligence and nous to match. Focusing on women will not solve this very important problem. I define Cultural Intelligence as the knowledge and sensitivity about what makes different people tick, an understanding and respect for their habits and behaviours, and then using this knowledge to build a successful team, market or enterprise.

The reasons Cultural Intelligence is important in the workplace are:

  • Culture is the inner fibre of a person – it is what he/she believes in and holds dear.
  • In terms of talent management, Cultural Intelligence is a way of untapping the inner passion and potential.
  • Respect comes from understanding and tolerance. If we do not engage with people’s culture, we will not really respect them. This will affect the team spirit and performance.
  • People are different, and we should not try to impose sameness on them. Innovation and creativity come from difference not similarity.
  • Different cultures bring different strengths to the table – e.g. the Sikhs are known for their persistence, the French for their art, the English for their diplomacy. So if you are careful, you can weave a team with different ‘natural’ skill sets which can be hugely effective in achieving the project goals.
  • When we trade globally, we are forced to encounter different cultures and patterns of operation and behaviour. Cultural intelligence helps us to adapt to these differences and work to bridge them. Without it, we can end up creating sour motivation, relationships and even possibly a failed foreign investment!

These are just a few of the many reasons why Cultural Intelligence should be valued, and investment made in its training. HR professionals should have particular skill in this area, as they deal with diverse people at recruitment and development levels.

Article added on 10th February 2012 at 9:46am