The Four Components of Cultural Intelligence
In the first article of this three part series, we discussed the definition of cultural intelligence. As a reminder, it means that the individual has successfully absorbed the cultural nuances of other foreign cultures with the ultimate goal of facilitating positive outcomes and effective cross-cultural negotiations.
In this second article, the discussion continues regarding the four components of cultural intelligence – meta cognitive, cognitive, motivational, and behavioral cultural intelligence (Earley & Ang, 2003, as cited by Imai & Gelfand, 2010).
Meta-Cognitive Cultural Intelligence
When individuals want to engage in cross-cultural business, they must first learn about the basic facts of the unfamiliar culture, including its demographics, customs and traditions, religion, history, and beliefs and values. It is near impossible to be successful in cross-cultural negotiations or to be a successful global business leader without the acquisition of basic facts and knowledge about unfamiliar cultures.
Once the individual has absorbed as much knowledge as possible about the unfamiliar culture, he/she must devise a strategy to assess his/her knowledge. The assessment strategies include asking a friend, family member, or colleague to ask questions about the facts that have been learned and to score the individual based on the number of questions answered correctly. Another strategy could be using a question about a consulting venture in a graduate business text book and transfer the location from the United States to the country that the individual has been studying.
People who employ superior cognitive processes to study/engage new cultures and have strategies in place to assess their knowledge are said to have high meta-cognitive cultural intelligence (Earley & Ang, 2003, as cited by Imai & Gelfand, 2010).
Cognitive Cultural Intelligence
When an individual is able to use the knowledge acquired in the meta-cognitive level to decipher differences between cultures, that individual has acquired cognitive cultural intelligence. For instance, being familiar with the nuances of a culture that is individualistic like the United States (emphasis on the individual first, not on the group that he/she belongs to), he/she can then differentiate that culture from one that is collectivist (emphasis is on the group and its success first and the individual second).
This component of cultural intelligence represents an individual’s ability to use the basic facts acquired in the meta-cognitive step to distinguish between the differing norms, values, beliefs, and attitudes of unfamiliar cultures (Imai & Gelfand, 2010). When an individual has learned and now knows which countries are collectivist or individualistic, it becomes easier to place specific countries in blocs along with the dos and don’ts of intercultural relationships between members of the groups.
Motivational Cultural Intelligence
Learning about new cultures and being able to use that knowledge for more effective judgments and better decision making, is by itself, not sufficient for success. Individuals have to put in conscious effort to use that information to engage business partners in the new culture for success. Usually, motivation is the link between having knowledge of cultural differences and actually using that knowledge to engage others in a new culture. Imai and Gelfand (2010) referred to this as the intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy that is necessary to propel individuals with cultural knowledge to go out and engage new cultures.
I know a lot about the culture of most Asian countries. This is information that I picked up from several classes (both masters and doctoral studies) on cross-cultural organizational behavior. With this information, I can decipher between the Chinese culture and Philippine culture. However, all of that will not help me succeed in cross-cultural business unless I am motivated to practice and use the information during negotiations. Motivation is critical.
Behavioral Cultural Intelligence
When individuals have amassed a large arsenal of behavioral skills that enable them to indulge in verbal and non-verbal behaviors that are appropriate and acceptable in the new culture, these individuals are said have acquired behavioral cultural intelligence (Imai & Gelfand, 2010). These behavioral skills are developed from accumulation of knowledge and practice (both in simulated and real world experiences).
Tapping into the mental shortcuts (of a new or unfamiliar culture) that have been developed in memory to make quick, sound, and behaviorally appropriate judgments and decisions in an unfamiliar culture is a key element of cultural intelligence. For example, an American who is in the process of negotiating with foreign-based organizations in North Africa should know about the following (the list is not exhaustive):
- The etiquette of removing your shoes at the door,showing respect for the elderly, and not attempting to lead conversations
- Understanding that the positive outcome of the group takes precedence over that of the individual
- Being prepared to share about family because the family environment is very important
- Being prepared to work hard to gain the trust of the foreign-based organization.
When an individual is able to do these things effectively, he/she has acquired high behavioral cultural intelligence.
So how do we learn meta-cognitive cultural intelligence? How do we acquire cognitive cultural intelligence, motivational cultural intelligence, and/or behavioral cultural intelligence? These questions will be answered in the next and final article in this three part series.