Newsletter #462 – Cultural Intelligence

The idea has been around for at least a decade but only recently did I discover the concept of cultural intelligence – often known as CQ. According to David Livermore, author of several books on this topic, including The Cultural Intelligence Difference, CQ is the capability to function effectively in a variety of cultural contexts.  It is lacking in many people who study, travel or work abroad, probably including most of the 4.5 million North Americans who participate in international mission trips every year. But CQ can be learned and a growing body of research shows how it can smooth relationships, increase cross-cultural understanding and prevent much of the harm and miscommunication that occurs when naïve or uninformed travelers fail to make adaptions to cultural differences.

Cultural intelligence involves four different capabilities:

  • CQ Drive is one’s interest, motivation and ongoing determination to function effectively in diverse cultural settings.
  • CQ Knowledge is the awareness of how cultures are similar and different, the extent to which one understands core differences and their impact.
  • CQ Strategy is how one makes sense of cultural differences, including an understanding of cultural assumptions and expectations so one can manage differences effectively.
  • CQ Action is the capacity to apply CQ drive, knowledge and strategy to adapt one’s behavior to different cultures while remaining true to your own values and character.

Each copy of Livermore’s book includes access to an on-line assessment tool that measures individual CQ, followed by recommendations and exercises that enable readers to grow their CQ and become more effective in relating cross-culturally.

In the shadow of Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence and related “intelligence” concepts perhaps it is natural to be skeptical of another, despite reports of its research backing. Even so there is practical value in this concept. This is true for people who travel overseas but also for those who could use CQ in their own communities when adapting to people of other generations, worldviews, religions or cultures.

Has anyone read other Livermore books on CD? How does CQ relate to counseling, coaching or ministry? Please comment.


  1. I think it is wonderful to acquire advance knowledge of a countries culture prior to going there. What I have a problem with is, in our country we have to cater to the cultures of people who come here from other countries. While I would not want someone to lose the significance of who they are and where they have come from, Americans are more and more criticized for wanting our country to stay American. We can alter school sporting events for a foreign religion but we would never do that for a Christian religion. It gets kind of frustrating at times to be constantly hearing about how people from other countries feel discriminated against in the U.S. and now I’m starting to feel the same way in my own country. How about people in other countries learning the CQ of America.


    1. Anita,

      This is an excellent response and I agree that much of the adaptation is one sided. Open a mosque or Hindu Temple here and after some resistance it gets done. Try opening a church in a Muslim country and there is resistance, even in places like Indonesia or Malaysia where this is legal. My bigger problem is the paranoia against religious symbols and words (like “Merry Christmas”) from people here who claim to be tolerant. It is on both the right wing and the left – probably worse at the political extremes. Maybe people all the way from the tea party to the left wing liberals need a little CD in America – along with the rest of us in between.


  2. Great post. It reminds me of a time when two engaged friends went on a missions trip to Kazakhstan. He was an aerospace executive and accompanied the business mission. She was a beautiful and talented singer and went with the cultural team. While he was at the Cosmodrome, she went into the hill country to perform for some local horse-centric cultures. After her performance, the son of a local chieftain asked her if she would like a ride on his horse. Not wanting to offend, she accepted. The young man whooped and hollered as he rode off and disappeared into the hills with her. It turns out in their culture, asking a yound woman to ride your horse was the equivalent of a marriage proposal. Fortunately, she was eventually returned without harm and an international incident was avoided. True story.
    I will soon be ordering “Cultural Intelligence Difference” thanks to your post. I coach church members into finding their ministry and this often involves crossing cultural borders right here in the U.S., not to mention abroad.
    I also refer to and reread your book “Christian Coaching” regularly.
    Thanks Gary.


  3. I have read Livermore’s “Serving with Eyes Wide Open” and found it very helpful and use it as part of any pre-trip training for short termers I am crossing cultures with…

    I have also found Duane Elmer’s and Patty Lane’s book(s) on crossing cultures very helpful!


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