A leader with Cultural Intelligence realises that not everyone thinks like him or her.

In Julia Middleton's new book, Cultural Intelligence, she reveals a great question that to ask that can help you gain insight into other cultures:

What effects your decisions the most: the past, the present or the future?


Julia Middleton regularly asks that question to leaders she meets all over the world - getting them to show the importance of the past present and future with three corresponding circles. The bigger the circle - the more influence it holds over their decisions.

Here are some of the responses she has received: 

A Russian businessman


The past: 'The past guides everything, and it was violent.'

The present: Nothing much to say on the present.

The future: 'Because, you must understand, it may never happen.'


A mainland Chinese corporate leader


The past: 'It doesn't matter: because we can't change it.'

The present: 'Though it is only a connector: a connector to build on.'

The future: 'Everything is about the future because China thinks long term.'


A business leader in Germany


The past: 'The past is fragmented in Germany, and recent history is so awful that it can dominate your thinking.'

The present: 'We are developing confidence and getting better at putting the past behind us but we are still unsure of ourselves.'

The future: 'We are holding our own economically, even punching above our weight.'


A retired US ambassador


The past: 'We really do take the past for granted.'

The present: 'It is the overwhelming influencing factor.'

The future: 'I think we really don't think much about the future; again, we take it for granted that we will figure it out.'


A student in Mumbai


The past: 'It's full of old resentments which I feel people are moving on from.'

The present: 'We have to act now, urgently.'

The future: 'Because we have everything is to go for in this amazing country.'


What do you think these answers reveal about other cultures? Are they a good starting point for a conversation where you can improve your Cultural Intelligence?

And most importantly, how would you answer the question?

Let us, and each other, know in comments below.