7 Benefits of Improving Your Cultural Intelligence

Published: Feb 10, 2016
Modified: May 20, 2020


Are you aware of the organizational benefits of having high cultural intelligence? David Livermore is President of the Cultural Intelligence Center in East Lansing, Michigan, and has over 20 years' experience in leadership positions with a variety of non-profit organizations around the world. This is an adaptation from his latest book Driven by Difference.

Cultural intelligence, or CQ, is the capability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations.

Diversity is here to stay. And it’s going to continue to shape the way you operate internally and externally. Diversity by itself does not lead to better innovations. And many of the predominant diversity approaches miss the mark. But cultural intelligence is what makes the difference. The cultural intelligence of the individuals on a diverse team determines whether the team’s diversity promotes or deters innovation. When you’re involved in a situation characterized by cultural diversity, your CQ is the multiplying force that predicts whether you experience positive or negative benefits from diversity. Those with high CQ can manage the differences to come up with better solutions, while those with low CQ are continually frustrated when working with diverse colleagues and customers.

Your CQ predicts how you will perform when working in culturally diverse situations—whether living or traveling internationally, working on a project with culturally diverse colleagues or customers, or working across two different organizational cultures. Meanwhile, 90 percent of leading executives from 68 countries identify cross-cultural skills as one of the most important capabilities needed in remaining competitive. Therefore, the higher your CQ, the more likely you will outperform others, gain new opportunities, earn higher wages, and experience success working in the diverse, globalized context.

The most important ROI for organizations with culturally intelligent individuals is that companies are more likely to accomplish their mission in culturally diverse situations. When CQ levels are low, diverse teams underperform homogeneous teams. But when CQ levels are high, diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams on several measurements: productivity, employee engagement, profitability, innovation, etc. More specifically, organizations that have employees with high CQ can expect:

  1. Expansion into culturally diverse markets (global or domestic)
  2. High quality service to culturally diverse customers, patients, or students
  3. Speed and efficiency
  4. Productive global assignments
  5. Becoming an employer of choice
  6. Profitability and cost savings
  7. Multicultural team effectiveness

Maintaining a high level of cultural intelligence will optimize work performance and allow your organization to operate more effectively in a global economy. Make it a mission to coach your employees to easily adapt to cross-cultural experiences.

About The Author

David Livermore is the president at the Cultural Intelligence Center in East Lansing, Mich., and a visiting research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Prior to leading the Cultural Intelligence Center, Livermore spent 20 years in leadership positions with a variety of non-profit organizations around the world and taught in universities. In addition to Driven by Difference, Livermore has authored several other books, including Leading with Cultural Intelligence (named a business best-seller by The Washington Post), Serving with Eyes Wide Open, and Cultural Intelligence: Improving your CQ to Engage our Multicultural World.