Customs, the Aorta of Trade Facilitation.

Dr. Cari Leyshon
Founder & CEO - CQify

Did you know that cultural intelligence is the new frontier to meet the constantly changing and complex business landscape during this digital age?


The recent pandemic uncovered deep levels of discomfort and discontent people are experiencing within business environments, causing an awakening to individual purpose, connection, and belonging. Organisational leaders reacted with various initiatives such as ‘bring your whole self to work,’ launching Diversity Equality and Inclusion (DEI) departments, consciously recruiting minorities, and a renewed well-being-at-work focus. Despite these initiatives, recent statistics confirm that discomfort and discontent remain. Existing change strategies, learning and development programs, and new processes are not creating sustainable change. Individuals may temporarily integrate the new learning before reverting to original mindsets and habits. Leaders are constantly jumping from one solution to another, reacting to poor performance metrics, and knowing something is still missing.

Reflecting on how intelligence has evolved historically, leaders were perceived to be strong, authoritative, visionary, charismatic, and articulate. The hierarchical management structure enabled efficient chain-of-command implementation from the leader to front-line workers. During the industrial revolution, business leaders relied on their IQ to create robust business processes and systems to contain costs and increase profits. As businesses evolved, leaders realised humans are emotional beings which required a new management approach. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) training introduced management through relationships to inspire, motivate and interact more compassionately (Goleman, 2005). Both IQ and EQ help improve communication strategies within business development. Yet continual investment in training solutions promising different team synergy failed to make long-term sustainable changes. Post training, employees reverted to previous behavioural patterns and habits. The reasons why this happened puzzle leaders until now.

The challenges businesses face in the current VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) environments require a radical new approach to resolve ongoing issues of retention, alignment, engagement, trust, communication, belonging, purpose, and bottom-line performance. Traditional solution-based training no longer addresses the interference during human-to-human interactions. With rates of migration now exceeding world population growth (Edmond, 2020), people live and work in different countries from where they were born. For many, different countries from where each of their parents were born, called fourth culture children (Afterninemonths, 2013). The implications on human-to-human interactions, such as increased misunderstanding, are profound and require Cultural Intelligence (CQ).


CQ is an individual’s ability to be consciously open and flexible to navigate diverse situations. CQ is not based on how extensively someone has traveled or knowing all customs and traditions. CQ can increase by learning to be open, adaptable, and curious about different perspectives.

Some people believe diversity is differing skin colours. My personal view is every interaction between two individuals are diverse situations. Everyone has their own unique schema, encapsulating beliefs, attitudes, judgements, and behaviours. The interesting, or even unnerving part, is that most of our beliefs come from unchallenged viewpoints accumulated from our circle of influence, such as family, teachers, and friends, where we accept their preconception of the world as our truth. When we face our own trauma, we begin to question these beliefs and accept new information.

You are just like everyone else

-Margret Mead


When CQ is at the heart of inquiry into increasing business performance, focus shifts from business solutions to human connections. Culture provides our personal blueprint of acceptable behaviors, how to eat, speak, values, and religion. This cultural programming becomes our ‘automatic pilot,’ including our unconscious bias. Many training programs increase our awareness about biases and recognising microaggressions, the innocent questions or statements that can directly or indirectly insult another person. Yet a gap remains on how to embed and align individual culture to create a performance culture within an organisation.

My curiosity fueled my research about how individual schemas are directly influenced by culture, a common blind spot for leaders. Reflecting on my journey, born in Canada, having lived in the USA, UK, Spain, and Switzerland, I realised the impact each culture had on my individual schema and how many different cultural preferences are integrated into my life. For example, I now enjoy having an afternoon siesta, common in Spain, but still arrive early for meetings, common in Canada.

Migration data supports how people have multiple cultural identities making it impossible to label someone based on where they live. The implications require high CQ. For example, as a keynote speaker with 400 delegates from 95 countries, it was impossible to adapt my presentation to not unintentionally offend an audience member due to their perception of my message. If every participant had developed CQ skills and consciously listened to my presentation, both openly and with curiosity, effective knowledge sharing was an increased possibility. As my CQ develops, I am more flexible-in-the-moment. I never assume someone shares the same word definitions or interpretation of actions. I have experienced many circumstances where innocent misunderstandings occur from misinterpreting actions or words, supporting the need for ongoing clarity.

91% of people are leaving their current employers due to human-related problems (PlanBeyond, 2022)

In diverse situations, we gauge our level of CQ by how easily we feel ‘offended.’ I find it interesting that misunderstandings are normally derived from our unconscious bias that instantaneously forms our perception or worldview. As with microaggressions, if left unquestioned or unacknowledged, we feel misunderstood, like we don’t belong, fearful, hurt, angry, depressed, and other emotions. Without CQ, you may feel more vulnerable and offended more easily than someone who has a high CQ.

If we deep-dive into what it means to be offended, we assess how easy misunderstandings can occur during human-to-human interactions. We use different lenses to interpret what we hear, see, or feel, referred to as experiencing life from separate realities. Understanding that every person has their own unique worldview contributing to their perception of reality can dramatically improve communication. At this level of understanding, insight happens, and real sustainable change occurs, called CQify.

CQify is a transformational journey using insight-based learning. Where innate wisdom is uncovered, providing new perspectives or information, shifting individual schemas. CQify is the next level; it is not another training program. It works by placing CQ at the centre of inquiry into business problems that support human solutions, creating a spiral of growth, collaboration, and performance. Our clients and their organisations experience radical shifts in perspective, with authenticity at the core of communication, unleashing sustainable personal and business transformation.


CQ provides pathways of reduced interference between human-to-human interactions by creating connections and building authentic relationships that nurture creative and agile work environments. Research confirms that CQ, combined with understanding the human experience (CQify), improves our human-to-human interactions, spiraling into team synergy by busting through limiting beliefs, stereotypes, and judgements for a trust-based learning environment. In providing a safe space, individual creativity is unleashed, enhancing the agility the company requires to increase performance.

How would you, your organisation, and the world change if we all replaced judgment with curiosity?

Dr. Cari Leyshon

We need to be free from our borders, departments, and traditional thinking to relinquish labels and appreciate our uniqueness as global citizens while consciously participating in business. Business problems can be reframed with a human solution, reducing discomfort and discontent, and start healing and thriving amid the world’s VUCA environment.