Culturally Intelligent Innovation: Diversity × CQ = Better Solutions

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“Everyone seems to be talking about diversity these days. Tech companies have pulled back the curtain to reveal how white and male they are. Indian firms are scrambling to appoint female board members in order to abide by new laws. European and North American multinationals are hiring executives from emerging markets. And even Hollywood is admitting that you’re more likely to see an alien on screen than an Asian or Latina female.

Diversity has moved from a nice-to-have to a must-have. And innovation is one of the benefits most consistently lauded to sell people on diversity. It sounds promising. Rather than approaching a problem from one perspective, you gain the opportunity to see things more broadly. The problem is, diversity rarely works out that way. […]

Diversity is undoubtedly one of the best sources of innovation. But it’s not automatic. Diversity by itself does not lead to better solutions. Cultural intelligence, or CQ, is the differentiating factor. CQ is a research-based way of measuring and improving effectiveness for working across cultures. And CQ is a multiplying factor when combined with diversity. Diverse teams with low CQ perform significantly worse than homogeneous teams. But diverse teams with high CQ outperform homogeneous teams in every area—productivity, employee engagement, cost savings, profitability, and yes—innovation.”

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