A Lack of Cultural Intelligence Will Put You Out of Business

10/21/2011 08:01 am ET | Updated Dec 21, 2011

More and more leaders are scared for their businesses. Not because their products and services are not innovative or relevant, but because they just don't connect naturally with the changing face of America's consumers.

The rapid rise of Asian, Hispanic and African-American populations in America is forcing companies to change their business models and their entire business approach. This shift became quite apparent during a recent meeting with the C-level team from a major investment bank who said, "Today, I am scared for the future of our business because our employees don't relate to or with the emerging client base. We are losing business to competitors that are owned and operated by Indian, Hispanic, African-American and Asian leaders. In fact, we are losing key diverse members of our workforce to these same competitors because we lack the cultural intelligence to keep them."

If you were asked about your Cultural IQ, what do you think it would be? Did you know that Hispanics, Asians, African-American and other multicultural groups think, act and innovative differently than mainstream groups? As a business leader, are you actively encouraging your people to bring their authentic identity to work every day? Do you even know what this requires - or how it can be beneficial for enabling new types of business growth for your organization?

In today's global marketplace, you must be culturally intelligent. It's a business imperative. America's corporations are becoming more aware of this need. However, they still don't know what to do and how to do it. Instead they support diversity associations, donate to non-profit service groups, and increase their advertising dollars to target the changing faces of their customers. But when it comes to being authentic in how they integrate cultural intelligence into their business model, this is where the executives begin to get uncomfortable.

Our leaders can't buy cultural intelligence. It's not for sale. You must live it in order to authentically be it. Businesses have to get it or they will be left behind in the global race over the next decade.