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Book review by Rishi Athreya - Cultural Intelligence: CQ: The Competitive Edge for Leaders Crossing Borders by Julia Middleton

What is the basic premise of the book? 

This book propounds the concept of Cultural Intelligence. It is described as analogous to and a natural progression from Cognitive Intelligence (IQ) and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) (Pg 7). CQ is described as being able to operate across cultures and other social divides e.g. gender, religion, abilities, sectors, generation etc. A CQ leader is said to be excited by cultural differences and build bridges. CQ is seen as important for gaining trustworthiness.

The book identifies and provides detailed illustrations of two elements in a person’s personality Core (unchangeable) and Flex (changeable). In terms of academic discipline, the book can be categorised into International Business. A strong point is the number of examples from various countries. 

One weakness is that the book cites examples of Core and describes these as intolerance, although some may not consider these as negative.

Could you apply the ideas or techniques described in the book?

There are tools to develop CQ.  A strong point in the book is the use of scenarios and exercises.

There are examples from immigrants and cross-cultural lives.  Finally, there are actual experiences of applied CQ.

Overall, the points illustrated are quite basic and most useful. These can easily be applied. While the tools are simple enough to read there may be issues in implementation. At some points the descriptions for CQ are excessively complicated by the author’s own admission (Pg 87-88).

What level of manager/ which career stage is the book aimed at? 

The book professes to be aimed at Leaders. However, it is useful to practically anyone in International Business or Diplomacy. Consultants in particular would benefit from being trained and indoctrinated in the CQ codes of the book.

3 stars: Good, worth reading by a manager or leader

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