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How is your Culture Quotient?

How is your Culture Quotient?

  • 08 February 2017
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Does your organization have a strong, homogeneous culture? Is that desirable? Does everyone hold the same values, beliefs, priorities, norms, preferences? Does everyone eat the same lunch menu every day?

Many of my clients answer yes to the first two questions - and no to the last. Then they think again and suddenly see with different eyes. There are many variations and diversity - even within a “homogeneous organization.” And maybe - that is okay. The “success of a strong culture” story perhaps applied to some corporations in a very stable market in the 1950s. But for all modern organizations, unity within diversity is the key to business success.

Diversity is an important asset if you know how to benefit from it. As biologists teach us: Diversity is vital for a healthy ecosystem - and that goes for organizations as well. 


The emergence of subcultures is often a natural process in organizations as professionals from different fields (marketing, finance, etc.), levels, genders, and generations (Babyboomers to Millennials) work together. Often, subcultures (I’m not talking about dysfunctional silos) are useful. But diversity goes even further than the functional or generational subcultures.

In our connected world, multicultural encounters happen way more often than in the 1950s. The global economy, boosted by technology, enticed national companies to become multinational corporations or to outsource part of their processes abroad or to recruit scarce, skilled professionals from another country.

The Internet facilitates us to work with virtual teams in different time zones; we travel to our international clients or headquarters, we have to close deals, eat lunch, and socialize with people from overseas. Our kids share a classroom or sports club with the children of immigrants and refugees, your supermarket cashier has just learned our language and the surgeon who treated your old father was born 7,000 miles from here.

How is your CQ?

Long story short - cultural competency is a must for people and organizations. So, how is your CQ - your cultural competence intelligence quotient? Can you recognize, respect, and reconcile cultural differences and dilemmas? Can you realize actions to solve any issues? Whether you have to deal with the marketing department, the new Japanese CEO, the Syrian janitor or the spoilt millennial customer who wants a refund - you need to manage this well. I know I can always do better - to be honest.

Cultural competency is a learned skill set that enables professionals to adapt to diverse socio-cultural settings, often without the prior knowledge of the specific cultures involved. The skilled culturally competent leader, operates effectively in diverse workplaces, on global teams or international assignments.

“Diversity is beautiful and dramatic if you don’t manage it well”, Dr. Fons Trompenaars once stated in a lecture. Trompenaars says we need to Recognize - increase awareness, Respect - appreciate cultural differences, Reconcile - resolve cultural differences, and, Realize and Root - implement reconciling actions.

I couldn’t agree more. I know I have missed some R’s while conducting my international business. I have rushed prospective clients from the Middle-East who wanted to get to know me better before doing business - because, in my culture, we talk business straight away and not build personal relationships first. I certainly have not always respected differences - as I found them annoying because they slowed me down. Fortunately, I have learned.

How is that for you? In which of these areas could you improve? Recognize - increase awareness, Respect - appreciate cultural differences, Reconcile - resolve cultural differences, and, Realize and Root - implement reconciling actions.

Certificate in Cultural Competence

Fortunately, cultural competence is being recognized as important by more and more people and organizations. Cultural competence will improve your work and results - even when your coworkers are from the same background - you will improve collaboration if you handle differences well.

For those busy professionals who want to develop essential knowledge and skills for culture competency, change and development, and leadership - there’s an online FIT/ICCM Professional Certificate program with five interactive modules, including video, discussions, cases, simulations, and guidance by a mentor.

The modules are:

Navigating Cultural Differences,

Culture, Change, and Development,

Managing, Measuring and Changing Organizational Culture

Leading Teams and Collaboration

Reconciling Cultural Diversity

This program is developed by Continuing Education at Florida Institute of Technology, the Institute for Cross-Cultural Management, and the Institute for Culture and Adaptive Leadership. For more information and questions, contact Suzanne Sterling at suzanne (at)

Copyright © Marcella Bremer 2017. All rights reserved.

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