As our world is changing so rapidly, there is becoming more urgency to find ways to communicate clearly and appropriately within our globally local, or “glocal” environments. Many of the cultures of the world can be found in urban settings, so we need to be able to gain cultural understanding on how to communicate within different value sets in our own communities. Too often we assume that if someone moves to our country, they have adopted and adapted to our systems of values. However, this happens seldom, and is only happening less with the changes in the world. We need to recognize our role in communicating values to our new friends and neighbours.
Perhaps this is why I am so driven by the science of Cultural Intelligence (CQ). It is defined as our “capability to function effectively across a variety of cultures (national, ethnic, organizational etc.)”* Typically, CQ is used as a tool for crossing cultural boundaries in global exploration. But because of our global shift, within our own cities and communities, we have become global, thus needing CQ not only for international journeys, but for interacting with our neighbours across the fence. The need for increased CQ in daily life has become essential in our own environments.
As we peer into the parts of CQ, we find that it is made up of 4 distinct elements. First is our CQ drive. It is our motivation for communicating and living within a different cultural value set. Second is our CQ knowledge. It’s emphasis looks like the traditional approach to cross cultural communicate and adaptation. It focuses on the things that we learn about concerning the cultural system we plan on interacting with. Traditionally, this is the main, and sometimes only part of cultural training that takes place. But in the CQ system, it is only 1 in 4 of the needed elements. Thirdly is our CQ strategy. We must be willing to strategize how to communicate and move within the new environments. Finally, the forth part of CQ is our CQ action. This is the chance that we take to see how our actions need to be adjusted within our strategy. We need to know how much to adjust to the other cultural norms, and sometimes how much not to adjust. We can look foolish and inauthentic if we change too much of our behaviour.
It seems to be that perhaps one of the most crucial and underestimated parts of the CQ system is the drive that someone has to be interacting in a cross cultural environment. We too often assume that our drives are strong enough to maintain us in our new cross-cultural endeavours. However, simply being driven to interact with others is not enough. The drive is crucial and goes beyond our curiosity of other cultural systems. ”All the diversity awareness programs and creative cross-cultural simulations are pointless if we don’t actually change the way we view people from within.”* Livermore argues that we must change how we view people.
Our values systems assume a view on humanity. The way we interact with people on a daily basis will illustrate and define how we actually view people. This seems to be a global issue. The way the systems of the world function in regular life settings creates our philosophies and behaviours towards people. From a traditional evolutionary view, the only way we can view others above ourselves is within our altruistic acts. However, even traditional science can not answer how we can live according to altruism. It appears that in order to live within such a diverse and rapidly changing world, altruism must be made a rule of sorts. We can’t lean on culturally altruistic acts as the exception to the rule, but it must increasingly become the norm.
Isoculturalism needs to become our drive for being culturally intelligent. Isoculturalism demands that we view people differently than we traditionally have. It does not allow for our motivation for cross-cultural engagement to be self serving, for if it is to simply better ourselves, we have defined our view of people as a means to our own ends. As isoculturalism becomes the bedrock for our cross cultural activities and philosophies, we will begin to actively seek out ways to build others up within their own cultures, even if ours is not bettered. This is truly culturally altruistic. This is isoculturalism.
* Excerpts taken form David Livermore’s book “Leading with Cultural Intelligence”. For further details about David Livermore and his work on Cultural Intelligence, visit http://www.davidlivermore.com.