Cultural Intelligence is the hidden driver of your business

Author: Luisa La via, Multicultural and Leadership Coach (PCC – ICF) / Culture Intelligence (CQ) certified facilitator


Luisa La via Multicultural and Leadership Coach (PCC – ICF) / Culture Intelligence (CQ) certified facilitator shares her perspectives on how companies can benefit from cultural intelligence. 


Cultural Intelligence is the ability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations.  

It is an academic concept validated across about 100 Countries and is a measure of Intercultural Capabilities.


Luisa La via shared her unique perspectives  with us in an exclusive interview. What is Cultural Intelligence? How can you obtain this competence and what are the advantages for a company?


1. What is “culturally different”? 

By culturally different we mean everything related to culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, generations, and all the differences we face every day in our professional and personal lives.


Not all differences, by the way, are visible and recognizable and it is precisely the less visible ones that most often generate great misunderstandings and frustrations.

Understanding and valuing diversity is not something we are always ready and trained for, and this means that we miss out on valuable opportunities. Understanding others means going beyond our own biases and grasping the “specific” contribution that the person with his or her uniqueness can give us, it means improving problem-solving, increasing innovation, increasing the success of the team, and the achievement of goals.



2. What is the difference between emotional, social, and cultural intelligence?

Cultural Intelligence quotient (CQ) is an evolution of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Social Intelligence (SQ) but it’s not directly related.

In fact, EQ is an aspect of intelligence linked to the ability to consciously recognize, understand, use and manage one’s own and others’ emotions. Therefore, EQ is a measure of “Emotional Capabilities”.

SQ is the ability to relate with others in an efficient, constructive, and socially compatible way. So, SQ is a measure of “Social Capabilities”. According to Daniel Goleman, SQ can be acquired once the skills of  Emotional Intelligence have been developed.

The distinctive and characterizing factor of Cultural Intelligence is that a high level of CQ allows you to work and relate effectively in a “Diverse Environment” where EQ and SQ are related to a more “Familiar Environment”. Although CQ is considered an evolution of EQ and SQ, the warning is that: those with a high EQ or a high SQ do not necessarily have a high CQ.


3. Why is it said that cultural intelligence is a measurable and trainable competence?


CQ is a Capability that is composed of 4 Competencies: Drive, Knowledge, Strategy, and Action. CQ Drive is related to your Motivation, Interest, and Confidence to adapt to Multicultural situations. CQ Knowledge is your level of understanding of how Cultures are similar or different. CQ Strategy is your awareness and ability to plan for Multicultural interactions. CQ Action is your ability to adapt when relating and working interculturally.

Researches prove that CQ is a measurable capability and therefore can be developed and improved. To measure it you can use the CQ Test (validated at the academic level) which is a diagnostic tool reflecting one’s current CQ, setting the direction in which one should move to succeed. The result of the test generates a personal profile that can help people to create their own action plan and start Development Activities such as training, individual or team coaching, mentoring, etc.


4. What is the role of HR leaders within the corporate organization with respect to CQ?

HR leaders can play a key role in the organizations when topics like Diversity, Equity Inclusion, and/or Multiculturalism are faced. A good first step could be to reach full awareness of the Diversity in your organization by mapping them. Following this, HR leaders can have a better picture of their own reality and start designing proper programs and activities. The major areas in which they can apply the CQ approach and methodology are D&I programs, Leadership Development programs, Recruiting Hiring and Promotion, Performance Management, Team Development, Global Relocation. 

That’s why the principal target groups dealing with diversity that benefit from applying CQ are: Multinational, small and medium businesses going Global; Individual Leaders or staff assigned to positions abroad; International relocation companies; Educational institutions; NGO policymakers and staff; Military personnel.

As you can see in the following chart, there’s a clear matching between CQ competencies and Performance Results.


Performance Outcomes: Matching between the 4 CQ Competences and the Performance Results (source: Cultural Intelligence Center,



5. What are the most important indicators to assess this competence during a selection interview?   


The above chart can easily be applied to the recruiting process as well. Many companies today resort to the use of the CQ assessment in order to evaluate the presence, of candidates, with those skills necessary to be successful today in an increasingly globalized  working environment. Candidates with a high level of CQ can show their competencies when requested to face problem-solving activities in which different approaches are involved and a common winning decision has to be taken. 


6. How can candidates demonstrate their cultural intelligence?

Candidates demonstrate to be culturally Intelligent when they are motivated to learn and adapt to new and different cultural scenarios. They show confidence in personal adaptability and it affects how they operate in multicultural contexts. Furthermore, these people have a large repertoire of verbal and non-verbal speech acts and behaviors to apply according to the specific context and know how to adapt them to each situation. Last but not least, these individuals have a wealth of knowledge about similarities and differences between cultures and they know how culture shapes behavior.


7. What are the advantages for a company when there is a high level of cultural intelligence?

There is a strong link between inclusive leadership and team performance and the most relevant advantages of being Cultural Intelligent are definitely the following: success in Culturally Diverse Markets, Stress and Emotional Burnout Reduction, Multicultural Team Effectiveness, Cost Savings, Increase in Problem Solving, Creativity and Innovation, Improved Customer Services and Marketing. 


Senior leaders can make a difference in fostering Inclusion, increasing Team performance and Business results. According to the results of research (Diversity and Inclusion Revolution Deloitte Review 2018), companies with Cultural Intelligent Leaders generate + 83% of Innovation, are 42% more Collaborative,  have + 31% of Customer Agility. These are companies that are able to make the most of the power of individual differences.


8. How can you improve Cultural Intelligence? 

There is no magic formula nor a magic wand!

Curiosity is a keyword. If we are curious we can nurture our motivation to meet different people (CQ Drive) and know what in our culture is similar and different. Avoiding limiting the knowledge of the other to what we have in common will open us to new perspectives (CQ Knowledge).


Once we have learned enough about the other’s culture, values and norms, business and legal systems we can decide how to approach the other person and plan for a successful interaction (CQ Strategy). Being able to adapt our communication style, both verbal and non-verbal, to a different audience (CQ Action) is crucial and can happen if we have been able to translate into actions our Motivational CQ, Cognitive CQ, and Strategic CQ.

Global Leadership is not about geography. It is about having the dynamic agility to lead anyone, anywhere”. (David Livermore, cofounder of the Cultural Intelligence Center)