Founder of Aristotle's Cafe, Hassan Ghiassi believes cultural intelligence needs to be embraced by tech startups and invested in, as not doing so can prove detrimental.

In your opinion, how important is cultural intelligence in the technology industry?

That’s a great question, I would say it’s one of the most important elements to a successful business no matter what industry. To explain why, I want to first define what cultural intelligence (CQ) is… The standard concept is that it measures a person’s ability to work effectively across cultures. But many times people confuse the idea of culture, thinking that culture clash doesn’t happen between teams that are all from the same country.

If you have a group of Thai’s living in from Bangkok, they’re still going to have very different approaches to work and life. Thinking that they all share the same culture is a mistake that many managers make everywhere in the world. In fact, to me - cultural intelligence is all about how well you know yourself and others around you. And also how effectively you communicate with them. So cultural intelligence in the technology industry is a vital component of any success story.

What are the benefits of cultural intelligence for tech startups?

If you ask me I think that cultural intelligence (CQ) and something called emotional intelligence (EQ) are really the one-two punch that tech startups need.

Here’s what both of them are all about:

  • Empathy
  • Self-awareness
  • Relationship Management
  • Leadership Abilities
  • Mindfulness
  • Comfort with Uncertainty

The major benefits come in the form of effective communication - with your team, with your stakeholders, and clients.

Once you have a great concept it’s an amazing feeling, once you communicate it effectively to get the right people behind it, that’s a recipe for huge growth.

From what I understand - you’ve been hosting discussion groups for the past 14 years and you’ve spoken with 10,000+ people. So my question for you is, what countries still need to work on being open to holding them?

To be honest, every country I’ve held discussions in are full of people ready to share their opinions and I’ve never run into any issues holding them. Coworking spaces, businesses, and even government institutions are starting to ask to collaborate because they see the value in giving people the chance to have discussions. They want to develop people with innovative ideas, critical thinking abilities, and an understanding of other cultures.

What do tech companies stand to lose if they don't invest in cultural intelligence?

Less clients and profitability, high employee turnover rate, loss of productivity, and in the end a lower chance of success. I think one thing that I’ve seen many startups struggle with is this. When you have an idea so new to the market or so revolutionary, you’ll have to really communicate it effectively. It’s not the same as opening up a burger restaurant, people already know what to expect with a burger - the challenge is convincing them that yours is better than the rest.

In Tech, there’s an educational process that has to happen in many cases. To educate, you really have to understand your target audience. At the same time, you also have to make sure your team feels happy and valued as part of a very fast growing and chaotic environment. If you aren’t treating your employees right, they’re going to burnout, find a better place to work, or simply quit.

How can business leaders become better communicators?

In the short term, they can learn about the 3 Pillars of Persuasion and how to truly utilize them both to communicate with power and also to better respond messages from those around them.

In the long term, practice makes perfect. That is why many Founders, CEOs, Managers, and HR Teams are asking that we come in to run discussions based on the Dialogic Approach. Both for team building, but also for improving communication skills. I’ve been holding discussions each and every week for 14 years and can promise, nothing makes you a better communicator than taking part in challenging and impromptu discussions with a diverse group of people.

Founder of Aristotle’s Cafe, Hassan Ghiassi will speak and give a workshop on “Effective Communication and Negotiation” at this year’s Techsauce Global Summit. For more see


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