Cultural Intelligence Proves Critical to Global Strategy

Cultural Intelligence Proves Critical to Global Strategy

To be effective globally, organizations need to foster cultural intelligence, especially in senior management.

A couple of weeks ago, I met with the chief operating officer of a leading contract manufacturer with $18 billion annual revenue. He was interested in our technology, and I know he has a reputation for being influential within his organization. I was curious to understand him and how he had gotten to where he is. I found that he attributed five years in China and Singapore as a prime reason that doors opened to him.  As a first generation Cuban American, this gentleman finished his MBA 25 years ago and found himself being offered just the right opportunity at the right time. The infamous “leaning in” and a bit of luck helped, but it was really the international experience that helped him reach his goals.

International experience instills the ability to work across cultures and understand local circumstances, he explained. The contract manufacturing business is tough: with tight margins of three to five percent, he added. The company works very hard to make it fun for their employees, and with that comes more emphasis on culture, and on being culturally intelligent and accommodating.

In today’s world, people and places are tightly connected and physical distances don’t matter any longer. We are going to be working and interacting across cultures more than ever before. Cultural intelligence, like emotional intelligence, is critical to inspire people, grow your organization, ensure customer satisfaction, win business, and build a great brand across boarders.

By working in other cultures, people are able to emphasize with people from other cultures. I’m not saying that you need to learn every single detail about the other culture, but you have to know enough to come across as respecting the other individual’s culture, which in turn helps you to collaborate more effectively.

Now, let’s look at some of the reasons that being culturally savvy is important both for an individual career, and for a successful business:

The world is getting smaller & smaller

Now more than ever before, there’s a high chance of meeting/working/interacting with someone who is an expert in a specific field and is also from a different culture or a different country. I see the changes in my own neighborhood, where my family lives side by side with a Korean American family, a French American family, an Irish American family, an African American family and an Iranian American family. Every morning, when my daughter gets on the school bus, she interacts with all these kids and when they come home, all of them play together. All the parents are connected in Facebook and they share pictures, meet at events and stay in touch. Cultural learning happens every day. Being smart about the cultures of other families help them maintain relationship. At work, particularly on virtual teams, the chances of working with someone from a different culture are even greater.

The emergence of a sharing economy

The sharing economy is pioneering new industries and business models are both game changing and disruptive. For example. I travelled to New York City earlier this year and I wanted a good and cost effective place to stay close to the city and found a place through Airbnb. My stay gave me a different experience, more like staying with a distant relative that I’d never met than staying in a hotel. The gentleman subletting the room in his apartment was welcoming, presenting me with the gift of a new scarf and ear warmers to help me survive the cold. He showed me around his place and let me rest in a comfortable and tidy room…perfect.

Later, after I finished my business, I came back and we had a pleasant conversation. He told me about the people who have stayed with him, travelling from China, Japan, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. He’s become friends with these people and kept in touch over social networks. He had a pin board, with a world map, that marks where his visitors have come from. Many people had sent post cards after their visit. I found the experience interesting, and, of course, it demonstrates the cross cultural savvy that these new models both require and support. Companies like Uber, Lyft, Task-rabbit, Lending Club, Snap-goods, Roadie, Neighborhoods are disrupting established business models and require a lot more cultural intelligence to take advantage of them.

Originally published at on Feb 28, 2018.

Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. SG LoadProof is a patent pending Centralized Enterprise Photo/Video Document System on Cloud for Supply Chain. SG LP is built on the fact that photos & videos are vital docs as important as POs/SOs/Legal Contracts/Fulfillment Orders that reside in ERP/WMS/TMS systems, that serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal proof of crucial, critical, vital operations executed in Supply Chain within/across orgs when fulfilling customer orders as well as meeting contractual obligations between orgs as merchandise is transferred between different parties that partake in Supply Chain functions & operations. And these photos/videos data should not be stored in someone’s Smartphone or Email Inbox or in their personal/work Computer, but should be stored in a Centralized Enterprise system, where such data can be pushed into super-fast, stored securely, accessible to all stake holders (CFO/Sales Reps/Customer Support/AR/AP) in an org, as well as facilitates super-fast retrieval/sharing. LP is an Enterprise System of record for Photo/Video docs & is as important as an ERP which is an enterprise system of record for POs, SOs, Legal Contracts between parties etc. that have huge legal ramifications, also as important as a WMS (Warehouse Management System) that hold indispensable shipment & fulfillment data on orders. Like how Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc. have evolved into social media platforms/systems that enable individuals to showcase their beauty/pretty clothes/lovely cosmetics/hep coolness etc., LoadProof is an Enterprise system that holds similar photos/videos, but for a different reason, not for show off, but to serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal & indisputable system of record and proof that can be presented even in the court of law, when there is a dispute between parties while they execute many facets of the Supply Chain functions & operations. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 25 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit the company at Also follow him at