Digital workplace consultant DAVID SMITH shares valuable insights on developing Cultural Intelligence (CQ) within organizations. Cultural Intelligence is the ability to adapt and interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds effectively. In this blog post, we’ll explore fundamental concepts discussed during the interview, including understanding what we don’t know, different learning styles in cultures, and fostering a learning culture within virtual teams.


Cultivating cultural intelligence

Developing Cultural Intelligence is critical for virtual teams operating in diverse and globalized environments. Understanding the phases of CQ, leveraging assessment tools like Virtual Fluency, and fostering open communication and psychological safety are essential steps toward enhancing cultural awareness and collaboration. Cultural Intelligence is a skill that can be learned. Technology alone cannot solve all cultural challenges; focusing on awareness and understanding is crucial.

Acknowledging What We Don’t Know

One of the challenges with Cultural Intelligence lies in recognizing what we don’t know about other cultures. David Smith introduces the phases of cultural intelligence:

  • unconscious incompetence (we don’t know what we don’t know),
  • conscious incompetence (we know what we don’t know),
  • conscious competence (doing things deliberately and mechanically), and
  • unconscious competence (natural behavior).

Progressing through these phases helps us recognize our knowledge gaps.

Virtual Fluency Assessment Tool: Enhancing Awareness

David Smith has developed the Virtual Fluency assessment tool to facilitate this learning process. This tool focuses on three core areas: connecting, communicating, and collaborating. By using this assessment, individuals gain insights into their cultural blind spots, helping them become more culturally aware and sensitive in virtual interactions.

The Role of Language in Online Training Groups

Effective communication is a critical component of Cultural Intelligence. Paying attention to language abilities in online groups is crucial. Providing multiple mediums for expression and being mindful of idioms and slang can avoid misunderstandings and confusion. Ensuring psychological safety enables all team members to ask questions and participate in discussions comfortably.

Understanding Different Learning Styles in Cultures

David highlights the distinctions in learning styles between Western and Eastern cultures. Generally speaking, in the West, learning often involves discussions and dialogue with teachers, emphasizing learning with the expert. In the East, learning focuses on learning from the expert. To bridge these cultural differences, creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable asking questions and seeking clarification is essential – and therein lies the need for recognizing our knowledge gaps.

The Power of Personal User Manuals

David suggests using personal user manuals to foster a learning culture and promote understanding among team members. These manuals provide insights into individual preferences, working styles, and communication preferences. Encouraging curiosity instead of dwelling on differences can lead to a more inclusive and cohesive virtual team.

The fabulous Miro, a visual online workspace, has sponsored this podcast episode. Visit to get your three free whiteboards today.

Miro is a collaborative online workspace where you can visualize every idea, project, or workflow with the help of ready-made templates and tools. It’s built for teams to feel like they’re sitting side-by-side, even working in different places.


Additional resources for cultivating cultural intelligence

88 – How To Discover The Culture On Your Virtual Team

171 – Have Conversations About Culture On Your Remote Team

307 – Better Teamwork With Personal User Manuals

42 – Create A Team Agreement For Your Team


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