November, 2002, Tokyo. Japanese and American crews are working on the film of “Lost in Translation”, under the direction of Sofia Coppola. On the fourth day of filming, the Japanese team announces to the producer that they resign. The reason: the team had spent 10 minutes longer than planned on the shooting location, which had made them lose their honor.
After long discussions in which different intercultural points of viewpoints were detailed, the stakeholders finally understood each other and decided to continue to work together. This example shows the critical importance of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) as a highly valuable skill in companies today’s increasingly globalised environment.

What is CQ, and why is it a key competence particularly for international managers? How do international managers develop CQ?

Defining cultural intelligence (CQ)

Management professors Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne coined the term “cultural intelligence.” They developed CQ as a researched-based means of measuring and predicting intercultural performance.


This cultural quotient determines the individuals’ ability to use their intelligence within a foreign cultural context and adapt their behaviour to the latter, and even within a professional environment. For example, CQ denotes the capacity to distinguish an intercultural conflict from an interpersonal one.


Interpersonal conflicts, also called “conflicts of interest,” occur when the motivations or objectives of two or more people clash. They are often unavoidable and difficult to resolve. For instance, the case of two people who are in competition for the acquisition of the same resource illustrates an interpersonal conflict.


An interpersonal conflict differs from a misunderstanding in several aspects. In contrast to an interpersonal conflict, a misunderstanding can be solved by simply clarifying the situation. On the contrary, an interpersonal conflict can be extremely costly for a company to resolve, as it is based on a disagreement between two cultures in which values ​​and their uses are different. Interpersonal conflicts are often tough to identify because each individual does not know the culture of his interlocutor. The incident during the filming of "Lost in Translation" depicts an interpersonal conflict.

Understanding cultures

People from various cultures diverge in their behaviours and attitudes. On the one hand, Westerners have no problem with directly managing conflicts in the workplace. On the other hand, for Asians, face-to-face confrontation is unthinkable, and they prefer to find alternative solutions to solve the problem, such as using a third party as a mediator.


Moreover, people from a Latin culture and those individuals from an Anglo-Saxon or a Germanic culture deviate in their concept of or relationship with time. For instance, a German manager may be confused and irritated that a Spanish employee sends a document a few hours after the deadline, or arrives 10 minutes late to a meeting. Although the German manager can consider this situation a problem of respect, it is in fact a cultural problem.


Intercultural team

Only a few managers are trained and prepared to handle instances or people from various cultures. However, most executives nowadays work with individuals and entities from diverse cultures – from suppliers and customers to partners and subsidiaries. Companies have consequently developed training to prepare their expatriation executives, particularly through courses on the culture and language of the destination country. Nevertheless, these courses are highly theoretical and thus are lacking in usefulness in terms of helping managers to effectively confront specific work situations that are characterised by complex interactions and emotions.

Developing a solid CQ

In their best-selling book, Cultural Intelligence, co-authors David Thomas and Kerr Inkson propose the following three steps in improving CQ:


1. Acquire knowledge and fundamental principles of intercultural interaction.
2. Practice open-mindedness, or the ability to step back and critically and creatively analyse intercultural situations in which the framework is located.
3. Acquire behavioural skills that allow executives to select the most appropriate attitude from a repertoire of behaviours, according to the culture with which they are faced.


Step 1 can be learned with specific courses, and it is a prerequisite of step 2. Meanwhile, the subsequent steps must be anchored in practice, and in living in and experiencing different cultures.


If the step 1 can be learned with specific courses and is a prerequisite of the step 2, the following steps must be anchored in practice, in living and experiencing in different cultures. The MSc in Management - European Triple Degree - Grande Ecole is designed to develop a strong Cultural Intelligence for future international executives, in acquiring business & management skills in 3 different countries: France, Germany and UK.


Today’s globalised economy requires leaders who understand the intricacies of working in international business environments. These leaders should also be adequately equipped to overcome social and cultural boundaries and bring innovative solutions to political, economic, and ethical issues.


This is why emlyon business school, Munich School of Management and Lancaster University Management School, leading european institutions in management education, joined forces and created the MSc in Management - European Triple Degree - Grande Ecole, a 2-year triple Master's degree.