Capitalizing on Culture: What’s in a Name?

You may have noticed lately there is a lot of discussion about culture and the use of various terms – cultural competency, cross cultural communication, cultural savvy, cultural diversity to name a few.

And there is my chosen term: Cultural Intelligence (CI).

So why does choosing a specific label even matter? Just as the Cheshire cat told Alice in Wonderland, “All depends on where you want to get to.  And as a friend and colleague taught me, ‘‘Words create the world we live in.

If you Google these terms, the results are similar except for cross cultural competence which comes up with fewer results. So what, you ask?

Ten years ago, after I had a profound realization about the significance of culture and the impact on organizations and business, I went through this same exercise.

At that time, I was CEO of a non profit organization wading into this not-so-young field. I had no idea CI was so developed.  Our mission was to support the integration of Internationally Educated Professionals (IEPS), part of the 8,000 clients annually being helped into the Canadian world of work.

Very soon afterwards, I recognized the significance of Cultural Intelligence and having a global mindset.  The word intelligence implies ‘astuteness or smarts’ and is defined as the ability to comprehend; to understand and profit from experience.

The value of culture is more than developing cultural competence,  more than Human Resource initiatives usually driven through training.

Yes, gaining competence is important. However, if as leaders we do not demand cultural intelligence first as an organizational business strategy, diversity stays at a level that is siloed… and not in alignment with every single employee through policies, practices and performance measures.

A rose is a rose is a rose by any name, but a diversity business imperative is Cultural Intelligence.