Cultural Intelligence

The Roots of CI

Cultural Intelligence, or CI, is a relatively young construct in the field of intercultural competence. Developed by Earley and Ang (2003), CI evinces a person's ability to gather, interpret, and act upon drastically different cues to behave effectively across cultural settings or in multicultural situations. Earley and Peterson (2004) further developed CI after recognizing weaknesses in previous approaches to intercultural competence. The authors argue for discussions surrounding broader themes in learning activities, and not simply the “correct” answers; otherwise, learners’ ability to adapt appropriately to new cultures will be limited because of the activities’ surface-level similarities to actual cultures. By focusing on motivational, cognitive, and behavioral CI training (see The Three Cultural Capabilities), trainers can ensure that participants receive a holistic approach to understanding themselves to respond insightfully to new cultures and diverse others with empathy and intelligence. These capabilities are guided by the values of curiosity, empathy, and compassion. 

To Save Ourselves from Ourselves, We Mus


Leaders willingly seek to understand themselves and diverse others to identify how worldviews and cultural perspectives may contrast. 

Curiosity guides 

Cultural Openness.


Leaders conscientiously realign their perspectives to understand the cultural mindsets and emotions of those they seek to engage.

Empathy guides 

Cultural Awareness. 


Leaders intentionally demonstrate respect through behavioral changes in dynamic cultural contexts, putting empathy into action.

Compassion guides Cultural Responsiveness.

Guiding Theory: Intercultural Competence

CI serves as a methodological framework for practically applying the theory of intercultural competence.

  • Intercultural Competence is the ability to function with full confidence and effectiveness in a culture other than the one in which you were born and raised [“enculturated” into their initial culture, to use the anthropological term.] It is important that this person exhibit sufficient curiosity to explore the new culture, considering it as being at least of equal importance to his/her own culture. (Deardorff, 2004)

Intercultural competence theorists agree there is a need for generating consensus around assessment tools. The evolving body of scholarship examining assessments have reported on endemic challenges within current assessments (request citations).

Griffith et al. (2016) present their concerns about assessment of intercultural competence:


  • Unfortunately, the current state of measurement of intercultural competence leaves much to be desired, for several reasons. First, little consensus seems to exist regarding the requisite skills and abilities that contribute to intercultural competence. Second, the measurement of intercultural competence has over-relied on self-report methods that do not adequately cover the entire spectrum of the construct. Specifically, existing measures often tap self-referent cognitions without adequately capturing the affective and behavioral aspects that are inherent in intercultural interactions. 


Instead, Culturally Intelligent Training & Consulting seeks to equip participants with self-reflection tools and practical solutions for immediate action-oriented change.

The Problem with Assessments



  • Deardorff, D. K. (2004). The identification and assessment of intercultural competence as a student outcome of internationalization at institutions of higher education in the United States (Doctoral dissertation).

  • Earley, P., & Ang, S. (2003). Cultural intelligence: Individual interactions across cultures. Business Books.

  • Earley, P. & Peterson, R. (2004). The elusive cultural chameleon: Cultural intelligence as a new approach to intercultural training for the global manager. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 3(1), 100-115.

  • Griffith, R. L., Wolfeld, L., Armon, B. K., Rios, J., & Liu, O. L. (2016). Assessing intercultural competence in higher education: Existing research and future directions. ETS research report series 1–44.

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