Chapter 8 The Future of Cultural Intelligence

One day an elephant saw a hummingbird lying flat on its back on the ground; its feet in the air.

“What are you doing,” asked the elephant.

The hummingbird replied, “I heard that the sky might fall today. If that happens, I am ready to do my part to hold it up.”

The elephant laughed and mocked the bird. “You think those feet can hold up the sky?”

“Not alone,” said the bird. “But we must each do what we can, and this is what I can do.”

Adapted from R. MacDonald, Three minute tales

How can we ensure that our leadership matters at a very deep level? What can we do to cultivate awareness for cultural intelligence in all individuals within our organizations? As this Chinese fable tells, we have a responsibility to one another.

This book began with the idea that there are important factors changing the way we do our work, the way we connect with one another, and how we perceive one another. Technological, political, and environmental changes are fueling a global economy that is quickly flattening; our interdependence with one another goes beyond our relationships in the workplace. All of these factors create new world experiences.

When asked to describe the “person of tomorrow,” Carl Rogers,Rogers (1980), p. 350. one of the founders of the field of humanistic psychology, said that in the new world, people will have a desire for creating wholeness in life, thought, and feelings. This “person of tomorrow” will have a need to find and create new experiences that bring a deeper understanding of humanity to work. Similarly, Frances Hasselbein, the former CEO of Girl Scouts, said that people in our societies are looking to find themselves. There is a thirst for personal and inner knowledge and a thirst to understand how this information will uncover a more profound awareness for how we relate to one another.

There are four areas in which cultural intelligence will significantly improve our understanding of culture and intercultural work. These areas are reframing, adaptive work, systems thinking, and consciousness.