Globalisation has eradicated national barriers allowing people from different cultural backgrounds and nationalities to interact in one small universal setting. As such, concepts such as social, emotional and cultural intelligence have become a vital pinnacle of the society. Cultural intelligence is a relatively new concept that has its foundation in the traditional understanding of intelligence. In fact, these ideas have been popularised by the contemporary leadership and management approaches in the business world. In this respect, the paper accesses the meaning and evolution of cultural intelligence. Besides, the paper explores the differences between cultural intelligence from other forms of intelligence such as social and emotional intelligence. The analysed scholarly materials illustrate that emotional, social, and cultural intelligence exhibit several similarities and differences. Notably, the theory of multiple intelligences proves these variations. Nonetheless, emotional, cultural and social intelligence are connected by the component of socialisation.
A significant percentage of activities in the contemporary society occur in a multicultural context. Globalisation has eradicated national barriers allowing people from different cultural backgrounds and nationalities to interact in one small universal setting. Consequently, this proliferation of globalisation in the modern society has led to the emergence of new concepts such a cultural intelligence. Cultural intelligence is a relatively new concept that has its foundation in the traditional understanding of intelligence. In fact, this idea has been popularised by the contemporary leadership and management approaches in the business world. In this respect, the paper accesses the meaning and evolution of cultural intelligence. Besides, the paper explores the differences between cultural intelligence from other forms of intelligence such as social and emotional intelligence.
Cultural intelligence is a term that triggers different reactions from scholars and the society. Earley and Ang (2003) were among the first scholars to expound on the concept of cultural intelligence. According to Earley and Ang (2003), cultural intelligence is the ability of individuals to adapt to varying cultural contexts. Other scholars have used this ideology by Earley and Ang to offer comprehensive explanations on the concept of cultural intelligence. Pilon (2009) elaborates that cultural intelligence is the ability to engages in a set of behaviour that uses skills such as interpersonal competencies and qualities that are altered suitably to the culture-based values and attitudes of the people with whom one interacts.
Humans are social beings. As such, scholars have spent a significant amount of time researching on the various components of human interactions. According to Herrmann et al. (2017), Humans possesses vital cognitive abilities that lack in other animals. This uniqueness is what inspire scholars to assess the interaction strategies of humans. Consequently, the concept of cultural intelligence emanated from prior studies on issues such as social and emotional intelligence. In their article, however, Earley and Mosakowski (2004) point out the premise of cultural intelligence has been propagated by globalisation. However, as globalisation spread, particularly, in the corporate world, cultural intelligence has become an indispensable part of the modern society.
Consequently, the meaning of the cultural intelligence has continued to improve as more theories on the concept continue to emerge. According to Ang et al. (2007), cultural intelligence is the capability to operate effectively in culturally diverse settings. In line with this definition, Ang and Van Dyne (2015) outline that cultural intelligence is an individual’s ability to function effectively in situations characterised by cultural diversity. Analytically, cultural intelligence measures the ability of a person to fit into a different culture. As Thomas et al. expound, theorists opine that cultural intelligence has three key faces; cultural knowledge, cross-cultural skills, and cultural metacognition.
Although cultural intelligence has its roots in studies on human intelligence, it differs significantly from other forms of intelligence such as such as social and emotional intelligence. Professor Howard Gardner first raised the differences between the various human competences. He wondered by some people with a very high intelligent quotient score but failed miserably in their personal lives (Albrecht, 2005). After several psychological studies, the professor concluded that humans have a range of intelligence, which varies in individuals (Albrecht, 2005). This insight from Professor Gardner, popularly known as the theory of multiple intelligences is one of the key pointers that cultural intelligence differs from other forms of intelligence.
Subsequently, other scholars have also illustrated the differences between social intelligence and cultural intelligence. Citing the work of Rahim (2012), Rahim (2013) states that social intelligence is the ability of individuals to be aware of relevant social situational contexts, deal with the contexts effectively, understand the concern of others, and build and maintain positive relationships with other people. Precisely, social intelligence is the ability of a person to get along with others mutually. However, when evaluated broadly, these two illustrate similarities as they both deal with human interaction.
On the other hand, emotional intelligence is the “potential to be aware of and use one’s emotions in communicating with oneself and others and to manage and motivate oneself and others through understanding emotions.” (Wharam, 2009, p. 11). Unlike cultural intelligence that centres on culture, emotional intelligence focuses on how people deal with feelings of others in social context. As such, using the theory of multiple intelligences, these forms of intelligence are different.
As the business environment becomes increasingly globalised, cultural competence continues to gain importance. According to Ang et al. ( 2007), cultural intelligence enables organisations and their employees to transact with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds efficiently. Besides, cultural intelligence plays an instrumental role in enhancing peace in the world by limiting culturally-based conflicts. Nonetheless, it is challenging to ascertain the cultural intelligence of individuals since they are thousands of cultures globally. As such, its challenging to conduct studies on all these cultures.
Cultural intelligence is a vital survival tool in the globalised contemporary society. Globalisation has eliminated national boundaries allowing people to interact in one multicultural setting. As such, it is vital to know how to handle and socialise with people from diverse cultures appropriately to avoid conflict and to promote business growth.