cultural intelligence in the workplace 

Simon Büschges, Yenching Scholar, Peking University, China.  

This article was first published in 2020 in the Entrepreneurial Mindset Network eZINE Volume 5 no 1

Simon Büschges is a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, China.  His research in the field of economics and management encompasses innovation in educational technology, especially for higher education and workforce training

In this interview Simon explains the importance of cultural intelligence in the workplace.

Please introduce yourself

The phrase "love of learning" best describes me and what I do. On the academic side of things, I first completed a master’s degree in work and organisational psychology at Maastricht University and am now pursuing the next one as a Yenching Scholar at Peking University. My focus here lies on entrepreneurship and innovation in educational technology, especially for higher education and workforce training. At the same time, I look to apply my knowledge and to learn more about practical aspects of the field: I currently work in HR for the icon group in Berlin, focusing on topics like learning and development, while also being involved in the social startup happy2learn in Frankfurt. There, I’m actually starting a new EdTech project at the moment.

What are you enjoying about studying at Yenching Academy?

There are two things that I especially enjoy about studying at YCA. First, I really appreciate the opportunity to choose courses from a variety of fields. There are courses offered by Yenching Academy itself and also courses from other schools at Peking University, for instance, Guanghua School of Management and the Graduate School of Education.

This way, I am free to shape my learning to best fit my interests. Second, the international environment with fellow scholars coming from all over the world is great. There is so much to learn from one another.

Image credit: Pixabay

You recently ran an online class on Cultural Intelligence, how did that come about?

I’d been following Class Central as a central source for information on MOOCs since early 2020. Last year, it launched the concept of free social learning cohorts that bring people from all over the world together to study interesting topics in a variety of fields such as coding, natural sciences, and personal development. When I saw that they were looking for people to lead cohorts, I found it an interesting opportunity to use this international platform and talk about a topic as important as cultural intelligence with people of various cultural backgrounds.

What were the main take-aways about Cultural Intelligence?

Generally, cultural intelligence is incredibly important today. Many of us have colleagues from another culture or country, collaborate with customers from other places, or study/work overseas ourselves. It’s very rare to not encounter different cultures today. 

For an introduction to the key concepts that are involved, I recommend an article by Earley and Mosakowski published by HBR in 2014, who talk about cultural intelligence in terms of head, body and heart.

In terms of putting things into practice, studying specific cultures in advance can be helpful preparation, and then it really comes down to observing and actively listening to people from other cultures. Entering a conversation with the intent of really understanding the other person is the most important thing one can do.

What do you see as the next big thing in EdTech?

Educational Technology is such a broad and interesting field. Starting with pre-school students and continuing to lifelong learners, there are a lot of new innovations out there that aim to make education accessible to as many people as possible and improve individuals’ learning outcomes. My personal hope for the next big thing is that it will be focused on social good rather than profit. With the current growth-orientation of some very successful organisations, this seems to be less the case. Also, students’ mental health should be considered more in EdTech. These ideas are therefore at the core of our plans at happy2learn. ◼️