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ACSC and the ‘Cultural Intelligence’ Journey
Dr Heather Skousgaaard
DR HEATHER SKOUSGAARD IS a Visiting Fellow of the Defence Academy, where she represents the
Australian Defence College. Heather is a military anthropologist and reflects here on the cross-cultural
journey of ACSC.
When I first found out that my husband, Tristan, and I were going to be spending a year at the UK Defence Academy, I was, quite simply, thrilled.
Sure, most Australians would jump at the idea of being able to spend a year in the UK, let alone
in one of its most beautiful regions. But as an anthropologist, the prospect of spending a year living and working alongside people from over 60 nations was like being a kid in a lolly shop!
Over the course of the year I’ve had the unique privilege of getting to know some truly remarkable people from around the world. Together, we’ve learned about each other’s countries, tasted each other’s food, and forged strong friendships that I know will last for years to come.
But as we start to prepare ourselves to go home, I know that we’re taking with us much more than a phone full of memories and a suitcase of mementos. We also take with us a newly enhanced skillset: our cultural intelligence.
But what do I mean by ‘cultural intelligence’, and why am I so passionate about it?
Cultural Intelligence (CQ)
Let’s start with the construct itself. While there are many different ways of measuring cross-cultural competence, I join with Earley and Ang (2003) and Livermore (2015) in preferring the concept
of cultural intelligence, defined as the ability to function effectively in a variety of different cultural environments. As such, the culturally intelligent officer is not necessarily the one who knows everything there is to know about the tribal history of Iraq,
but what he or she can do is take the insights they gained during deployment to Iraq, and identify how to best adapt this learning appropriately to a defence engagement activity in Pakistan or a disaster relief operation in Mozambique.
In terms of concept development, cultural intelligence can in many ways be seen as the natural progression from emotional intelligence, or ‘EQ’ (cf. Goleman, 2009). But while EQ focuses on developing your ability to read and influence people within culturally familiar environments, cultural intelligence, or ‘CQ’, focuses on having the emotional, social and practical ability to relate effectively across a variety of cultures, including unfamiliar national, ethnic, organisational and professional subcultures.
So what does CQ entail? As an aggregate multi- dimensional construct, CQ includes four key dimensions, which together combine to create a very powerful and practical skill set – one that we’ve been practicing every day this year.
CQ Knowledge: This is the part that most cultural training focuses on, and it’s a natural place to start – after all, one of the first questions we think of when approaching a new culture is, ‘how am I supposed
   Over the course
of the year I’ve had the unique
privilege of getting to know some
truly remarkable people from around the world. ◆◆◆

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