Kevin smith once said in an interview: “Controversial’ as we all know, is often a euphemism for ‘interesting and intelligent”.
This is not universally true.
Working in a conflict region like Afghanistan, one certainly takes every idea with a pinch of salt. It has its ups and downs. Besides the usual security risk that is part and parcel of being based out of a volatile region, the oomph factor takes a massive hit due to numerous other factors.
To successfully lead a creative campaign, one needs to build cultural intelligence and incubate ideas with the potential to create a trajectory of change. In my case, I had to unlearn several imperatives that we as content producers keep in mind when pulling up our sleeves sitting on the cutting board in North America. This where the real test is. The question is not if you can produce a good campaign, ‘good’ being a relative term. It is to see if there is synergy between your CI and the audience.
When you’re working in an international environment, you need to make a real effort to understand the cultural backgrounds, beliefs and attitudes of the people around you. If you don’t, you’ll struggle to get things done.
Some people — those with high “cultural intelligence” — are good at spotting cultural differences, and they adapt their behavior accordingly. This is a key skill when working with culturally diverse groups.
It’s very possible to develop cultural intelligence. I came across a very interesting article on MindTools.com that articulates the re-purposing of one’s creative intellect and cushion it with broadening cultural intelligence. I worked with some of the best graphic designers and program managers in Kabul. These were kind, generous and hard working people. Hungry for experience, challenge and learning. I perhaps learnt more from them then they did from me.
Common sense and sensitivity play an important role here. You may not immediately understand the reasons for a colleague’s behavior, but you can build a great relationship if you keep a friendly manner and an open mind.
What is Cultural Intelligence?
Christopher Earley and Soon Ang introduced the concept of cultural intelligence in their 2003 book of the same name. They define cultural intelligence as someone’s ability to adapt successfully to a new cultural setting.
Cultural intelligence is related to emotional intelligence , but it goes a step further. People with high emotional intelligence can pick up on the emotions, wants, and needs of others. Those with high cultural intelligence are attuned to the values, beliefs, attitudes, and body language of people from different cultures; and they use this knowledge to interact with empathy and understanding.