Leaders with higher CQ are deemed as more approachable and experience more cooperation from fellow colleagues and less resistance. Ryan Quan-Chai, Chief Compliance Officer at Marsh Africa, delves into the adoption of Cultural Intelligence and how companies can use it to win.
Globalisation, cyber-business and the proliferation of cross border trade has opened up the floodgates for businesses in Africa to take their goods and services global. With Africa on the map, businesses need to shift their approach to accommodate cultural differences. If not, they stand to lose business to people who can relate to their customers and talk their language.
The Cultural Intelligence Quotient (CQ), introduced in 2003 by Earley and Ang, is defined as a measure of cross cultural competence. CQ follows on from Alfred Binet’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ) introduced in 1905 and Mayer and Salos framework for Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ) introduced 85 years later.
“In today’s global economy, your CQ level can mean the difference between the success and failure of your business, and it’s emerging as a key leadership tool to obtaining results in Africa,” says Ryan Quan-Chai, Chief Compliance Officer at Marsh Africa.
He says that integrating CQ into your business model to create authentic engagement with different cultural groups is particularly relevant in Africa, with burgeoning trade routes and vastly different cultural preferences. With 54 different countries, as many as 42 different currencies and, by some count, over 3000 languages across Africa
But are companies thinking about their cultural IQ as a key business tool both internally to address a diverse workforce and looking outward to potential new clients. Multicultural groups think differently, and often the subtleties of cultural difference may even result in misunderstandings and may influence levels of cooperation.
CQ Drive is the level of willingness a person displays to engage cross-culturally, “people who are willing to fling themselves into a new and different experience are the ones who are winning in this space,” says Quan-Chai. CQ Knowledge refers to the level of understanding a person has of a region’s cultural characteristics and can influence our approach to doing business in that region.
In Nigeria, advertising billboards have been appropriated to serve in a far more practical way as roofing for shacks in a nearby township. In most of Africa, forms of bartering are a common means of exchange and there are many vendors where credit cards are not accepted. The shrinking of the Zimbabwean economy in the early 2000’s has left many locals with a lack of faith in the banking system. Hyperinflation and soaring interest rates are common in a number of African countries, this has an influence on consumer spending patterns–something to consider for businesses trying to understand the nuance of the way people do business.
Quan-Chai goes on to say that the ability to apply your understanding of these nuances defines how successful your CQ strategy is, and knowing what behaviour is appropriate to achieve your desired outcome is a well-practiced balance, struck between an effortless ability to glide through a cultural minefield, knowing when to push forward, and when to pull back.
“When understanding the subtleties of cultural difference across Sub Saharan Africa, you will learn that there are multiple perspectives on any given subject, so we should not be shocked when we realise that the actions, gestures, accents or attitudes we display across the region, could be subject to a wide range of interpretation and are likely to result in misunderstandings and may influence the level of cooperation we receive,” he says.
Source: Marsh Africa