Culture Is King

What is Cultural Intelligence?

Christopher Earley and Soon Ang introduced the concept of cultural intelligence in their 2003 book of the same name. They define cultural intelligence as someone’s ability to adapt successfully to a new cultural setting.

People with high cultural intelligence are not experts in every culture; rather, they use observation, empathy, and intelligence to read people and situations, and to make informed decisions about why others are acting as they are.

They also use cultural intelligence to monitor their own actions. Instead of making quick judgments or relying on stereotypes, they observe what is happening, and they adapt their own behavior accordingly.

The Advantages of Cultural Intelligence

There are many reasons to develop cultural intelligence.

Developing Cultural Intelligence

Anyone can improve their cultural intelligence. According to Dr David Livermore, an expert on cultural intelligence and author of the 2011 book “The Cultural Intelligence Difference,” there are four things that contribute to it:

  1. Knowledge.
  2. Strategy.
  3. Action.
  • Learn a foreign language .
  • Keep an open mind when talking to people who are different from you, whether they’re from a different culture, ethnicity, political or ideological group, or simply a different organization.
  • Volunteer for projects that put you in contact with different departments, organizations, or cultural groups.
One of my billboards that we designed and executed in Kabul, Afghanistan.
  1. Knowledge: Studying how culture shapes people’s behaviors, values, and beliefs.
  2. Strategy: Being able to factor culture into longer-term planning.
  3. Action: Behaving in a culturally sensitive way — including being able to “think on one’s feet” in difficult situations.



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