🏳️‍🌈 Do You Have Cultural Intelligence (CQ)? A Self-Assessment Tool.

🏳️‍🌈 Do You Have Cultural Intelligence (CQ)? A Self-Assessment Tool.
The multicoloured perspective of a multicultural person 🙃

Welcome to the third issue of Multicultureland! This week I talk about one quick and practical way to assess your multicultural skillset. I discovered this through a former colleague who is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist with a decade of experience under her belt. Admittedly this issue is a little rambly, it sweeps across an array of ideas and interests—cultural intelligence, self-assessment, innovation and diversity. Thanks for reading!

[🎧 Colours Of The Wind - Pocahontas]

Hey friends,

A couple of weeks ago I caught up with an old friend. We met as fresh-faced graduates when we were both starting out in the field of Occupational Psychology. After a decade of loyal service she moved to a small consultancy specialising in her passion: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). She excitedly shared with me that one of her colleagues is a Third Culture Kid (TCK) like me and she was also due to receive training on a psychometric* assessment that measures Cultural Intelligence (CQ). Apparently they've been using it with their client, TikTok. Well now, that’s right up our street at Multicultureland, isn’t it?

I thought to myself: that’s fascinating, first came IQ (in 1905), then came EQ (in 1990), but when on earth did CQ come about? Exactly twenty years ago, and strangely it passed me by—in 2002 I was a 14-year old high school teenager. I first became interested in the psychology of culture and cross-cultural differences at university and upon graduation in 2005, entered the industry of psychometric testing. However, my employer specialised in assessments of 'personality and aptitude' and not culture. 'Organisational engagement' assessments were as close as it got to culture. I overlooked CQ because culture turned into a long-forgotten interest...until two years ago.

Given its short history we are still just starting to understand the impact of culture in the workplace. So why does culture matter and what would be the point of a TCK measuring their CQ? To find out whether I should, I decided to listen to an interview with David Livermore, the founder of the Cultural Intelligence Centre that developed the CQ Pro Assessment. He made two great points—first, a person can be culturally sensitive and not culturally intelligent. Speaking from personal experience this rings true: I grew up surrounded by TCKs and indeed, we were all sensitive to people from different cultures but we did not have the same abilities in 'intercultural interaction'—our CQ. The idea that follows is that CQ can be learnt and it just comes more naturally to some people (as a starting point, I emphasise) whether they have prior multicultural experience or not. This reminded me of the literature review we covered in the previous issue. It pointed to a study by Moore & Barker (2002) which found that:

“TCKs perceive themselves as competent intercultural communicators, despite their struggles with no clear sense of belonging.” (Tan et al., 2021, p.93).

If you are interested in the topic of 'productivity' then the second point is bound to get you thinking about CQ—more specifically, how CQ shows up at your place of work. Livermore says:

“What we found in this research was that more often than not, (culturally) homogenous teams were outperforming diverse teams on several different measurements—employee engagement, cost saving, productivity and innovation—unless cultural intelligence was high, diverse teams with high CQ outperformed the homogenous teams on all these different measurements that we looked at and in particular innovation. So it was the cultural intelligence that allowed them to actually utilise the diverse backgrounds and perspectives to lead to something that would offer them more innovative insights.” (Listen here.)

People often tell me I have good ideas and inspire them with new ideas. Historically I've brushed this off as a compliment and have not put much thought as to why, until hearing the point above. It resonated strongly because I have always considered my “innovation process” to be the outcome of an intercultural interaction as opposed to a lone lightbulb moment. I once worked on a project in a design agency and was placed in a ten-person strong team that looked like a gathering at the United Nations. What happens when you bring together Greece, Spain, Vietnam, Lithuania, Romania, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Australia and England to build the next big fintech app? These design agencies get paid top dollar to innovate and they're by far the most diverse places I've worked. The people are quirky and buzzing around with post-it notes, the environment is whacky and the treats are "hipster". It seems they know something that "standard" workplaces don’t about what makes innovation work!

Their secret sauce is diversity—so it seems, right? But the Cultural Intelligence Centre would argue that it is actually CQ beneath the bonnet, whether the person is white or a person of colour (POC). I feel passionate thinking about this because like most, I've clasped at straws trying to figure out how to introduce diversity at work in a way that makes everybody believe it really matters and care enough to do something about it. I've also worked in a lot of all-white Anglo teams as the only minority employee (either as a POC or a woman, sometimes both) but I have never considered framing the necessity of DEI as a solution to innovation. However, this argument would probably only work if the company was needing to innovate as an "urgent priority"...

For all that it can or can't do, cultural intelligence just sounds kind of sexy to me now. It presents an opportunity to turn DEI from a negative conversation into a positive one again. People seem to be fed up talking about DEI or are frustrated by current ineffective practices. For example, diversity quotas unfortunately have a side effect called tokenism (briefly, this is politically-motivated racial hiring with no real intent to change inside the org, and it really, really sucks). And these days it feels like the NHS is exploding at the seams with stories about racism in the workplace, one TikTok story after the other. More people are speaking up and more people are also getting triggered. But silence and ignorance is the biggest enemy. To put it frankly, I want to figure out how to have culturally intelligent conversations with Anglo-white (i.e. UK, US, Australia, Canada, NZ etc) people. I would want them to know that I don't blame them for feeling defensive about always being made to feel like the bad guy. But that doesn't give them the right to gaslight people with painful lived experiences either, just because they don’t understand it.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."—Mahatma Gandhi

Last week I booked a call with the Cultural Intelligence Centre in order to chat with someone and I got free access to the $25 CQ Pro Assessment. I had to remind myself that it always feels a little terrifying before taking a “test” but I am no longer in school and there is nothing at stake here so I cannot “fail”—or succeed, for that matter. The CQ is not a test, it is a self-assessment tool. The point of self-assessment is to learn about oneself and use that knowledge to develop. It can be a 100% private affair if one so chooses. And rather than see the results as a life sentence it is just a snapshot in time. If you are thinking about assessing your CQ please note; this is not going to be as fun as a funky Typeform survey or as short as a comfortingly-familiar-but-ugly Survey Monkey questionnaire. Look, I get it, the word psychometric alone sounds intimidating and intrusive. The bottom line is this: if you take the assessment and learn something from it, all the better, but if you don't, just forget it and move on with your life—it is not a clinical diagnosis!

In the end I decided to record myself interpreting the results from my report. There are two sections: CQ Capability (Drive, Knowledge, Strategy, Action) and CQ Values of which there are ten, such as Individualism vs. Collectivism. You can watch and learn about the values linked below—it is half a hour of footage but you may skip to the cultural value you are interested in from the timestamps in the video description:

YouTube 🎥: 🌎 Which cultures do my values relate to?

Despite all the trouble I've encountered taking on DEI, at the end of the day I feel grateful to have so many culturally sensitive and intelligent friends, both TCKs and non-TCKs. It has clearly always been something that I've sought in friendship and romantic relationships. And I constantly wish there were more TCKs to meet and hang out with like how it was back in the days of international school. Then again, nostalgia is a funny thing...

Yours truly,

Beccy xx
🇭🇰 🇬🇧 🇹🇼

*An assessment that has psychometric properties has been developed using the scientific process. It is usually submitted to academic journals where external researchers conduct a peer-review to test its validity and reliability.

About this Newsletter

Multicultureland is a weekly newsletter written by Beccy Lee about modern identities, dedicated to helping you become who you are. Beccy is a Third Culture Kid and Occupational Psychologist specialising in culture & personality.

“Who Am I?” is a deeply introspective question that we all ask at some point in our lives. This newsletter is for people like me who are keen to figure it out. I believe we all have hidden stories to uncover that have the power to transform us and our relationships.

Multicultureland aims to educate and entertain readers—Beccy writes personal stories, shares lessons and exercises that she has found helpful for self-discovery and personal development. Where social science meets wisdom, Beccy is a 'psychologist on a mission' to raise the collective unconscious in the modern world.

*Official definition of TCK: “A person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture.” - David Pollack, 1989.