What is Cultural Intelligence (CQ)?

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is “a person’s capability to function effectively in situations characterized by cultural diversity.”

Cultural Intelligence is the newest type of Intelligence that has recently hit the mainstream world.  CQ differs from IQ and EQ because it is a critical capability that enhances an individual’s success in cross-cultural settings.  However, as opposed to an individual’s static IQ, CQ is a capability that can grow and develop over time.  An individual’s Cultural Intelligence depends on several factors and can be enhanced in many ways.  It can change based on a person’s interactions with other cultures, their effort and interest in learning about new cultures, as well as through international experiences.  Awareness of other cultures can be gathered through educational, personal and work experiences.

Cultural Intelligence is extremely beneficial as it provides insights into how individuals are able to handle interacting in cross-cultural situations.  Enhancing one’s CQ is critical for people who interact with multicultural co-workers, managers, trade partners, clients, etc.  Also, it is important for increasing organizational effectiveness in multicultural teams at home.

CQ is made up of four factors that together contribute to one’s overall Cultural Intelligence.  The four factors are: CQ-Strategy, CQ-Knowledge, CQ-Motivation, and CQ-Behaviour.

CQ-Strategy refers to the mental processes that are used to acquire and understand knowledge of other cultures, including one’s understanding and control over their own personal thought processes. This dimension involves three main aspects: awareness, planning and checking. Thus, it includes being consciously aware of your current knowledge of other cultures, strategically planning before engaging in a culturally diverse situation and also continuously checking and adjusting your assumptions of other cultures when an actual experience differs from an expectation.

CQ-Knowledge is an individual’s awareness of how cultures are similar and different. This factor encompasses three basic forms of knowledge: business, interpersonal, and socio-linguistics. Business knowledge includes information on economic, legal and political systems. Interpersonal knowledge involves the understanding of cultural values, social interaction norms, and religious beliefs. Finally, socio-linguistics knowledge includes information about both language rules and rules for expressing non-verbal behaviours.  CQ-Knowledge also involves the knowledge of cultural universals – things that all cultures have. Examples include, every culture has language, aesthetic systems, methods of getting food, and childrearing practices.

CQ-Motivation is an individual’s capability to focus attention and energy toward learning about cultural differences, as well as their interest in seeking out opportunities to interact in culturally diverse settings. This dimension encompasses both intrinsic and extrinsic interests, which are respectively, deriving enjoyment and gaining benefits through engaging in cross-cultural situations. As well as, an individual’s confidence or self-efficacy to successfully engage in a culturally diverse setting.

CQ-Behaviour is a person’s ability to display the appropriate verbal and non-verbal behaviours during interactions with people from different cultures. Verbal behaviours include words, accent, tone and expressiveness. On the other hand, non-verbal behaviours comprise of body language, physical gestures and facial expressions. People who have a high behavioural CQ are very flexible and can successfully adjust and modify their behaviours to adapt to a culturally diverse situation.


Ang, Soon and Linn Van Dyne. Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications. New York:  M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2008.

The Cultural Intelligence Center. “What is Cultural Intelligence?” The Cultural Intelligence Center. http://www.culturalq.com/.

Menon, Dr. Shanker and Dr. Lakshmi Narayanan. “Cultural Intelligence: Strategic Models for a Globalized Economy.” Journal of Global Management. (Institut Fidal Inc.: 2008). Pg. 27 – 32. http://www.gmrjournal.com/FichierPDF/v4n2art3.pdf.

For additional information on Cultural Intelligence research, please visit:

The Center for Leadership and Cultural Intelligence at Nanyang Technological University

The Cultural Intelligence Center at Michigan State University