One of the issues I explore in my upcoming book, Otherwise, is that the changing demographics of the U.S., as illustrated to the left, have made it more important than ever to understand the "ways and whys" of others.
In fact, with the added pressures of globalization, it may be one of the most critical management skills of the 21st century. Now three rsearchers at Harvard and Columbia universities have written a paper that lays some academic rigor under my argument.
A series of four experiments showed that people with "high cultural metacognition intelligence," (or CQ) are not only better at relating to people of other cultures, they also engender higher feelings of trust that makes it easier to resolve disagreements.
Apparently, people with a high CQ "adapt their styles appropriately, taking into account cultural differences, yet not assuming more differences than truly exist." This helps create the feeling that they're all “on same wavelength.” Such feelings of rapport enhance creative collaboration.
But in the end, the researchers warn that "acquiring knowledge about other cultures, although important, may not be sufficient for effective intercultural work." Book learning has to be complemented by reflecting on real-world experience.
In fact, in an unusually practical recommendation for an academic paper, they suggest that managers systematically document their insights and the lessons they learned in a journal.
"Keeping a journal would help managers identify strengths and weaknesses in their past intercultural experiences," they advise. It would force managers to "consider what they could have done differently and what they can do differently the next time, and hence cultivate the habit of cultural metacognition."
Not bad advice.