Leadership programmes

Cultural Intelligence

Innovation and resilience through Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

At Common Purpose we believe that diverse teams are infinitely more innovative because their members spot more angles and challenge each other’s ideas. But this is only the case if the leader of the team is inclusive and has the CQ to unlock the innovation that diversity brings. Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the ability to cross divides – between geographies, generations, sectors, specializations, backgrounds and beliefs – and thrive in multiple cultures.

Not only does CQ in leaders result in innovative teams, they are also more resilient. Because differences are not papered over, they don’t eventually break the team apart in tough times.

Common Purpose has developed a simple, effective and empowering learning framework which allows leaders to unpack their own culture and confidently work with other cultures. We bring this framework vividly to life on our experiential leadership programmes, which take leaders out into cities all over the world.

Cities are our classrooms, in which we have established deep roots over the past thirty years. Our diverse global network of leaders are our faculty, they care passionately about Common Purpose and contribute regularly on our programmes. Our experienced and inspiring staff around the world combine these to immerse participants in places they would not normally go, to meet leaders they would not normally meet and to gain insight they would not normally gain. Our access and convening power is almost unrivaled.

Organizations with inclusive cultures are:


as likely to be high performing


more likely to be innovative and agile


more likely to achieve better business outcomes

Riaz Shah, Partner, Global Talent, EY

“Common Purpose’s proposition around leadership and Cultural Intelligence is cutting edge, speaking to the heart of the leadership challenge of society today.” 

Routes to CQ

We work with thousands of organizations in over 100 cities worldwide, running open and customized leadership programmes. We deliver both face-to-face programmes as well as experiential online programmes, which we have pioneered. Across all our programmes, we compile assessment data which we use to track impact. 

Open programmes

We deliberately recruit diverse participant groups on all our open programmes from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Participants are likely to be in the most diverse peer group they have ever been part of. They have to work out fast how to learn with and from each other.

The Common Purpose Programme 

The Common Purpose programme runs for emerging and senior leaders in different countries around the world. This powerful online progamme provides participants with an opportunity to unpick essential aspects of leadership, by exploring them through the eyes of others.


Ventures are for emerging leaders. They are currently run annually in Africa. Participants are given a challenge to address which is common and compelling to them all. They use our InnoVenture technique to examine the issues afresh, seeing them through each other’s eyes. They must use the diversity of the group to the full extent in producing innovative solutions. 

Global Programmes for senior leaders

Global Programmes are for senior leaders. We currently run two Global Programmes annually: January – for leaders making the transition to global, and the ASEAN Leaders Programme – for leaders from across the ASEAN region. Participants are posed a global challenge which they use our InnoVenture technique to address. These two-part programmes are held in different cities, four months apart. The senior leaders are pushed to reconsider many ingrained assumptions and adapt fast in a powerful and diverse peer group.


CQ workshops

We design a CQ intervention to run alongside or as part of an organization’s own leadership programme. These can range from a single half-day introduction, to a three day workshop or to a series of modules over time. We can build in city-based immersions where participants learn from other leaders who have had their CQ put to the test. Our Programme Directors can deliver in over 100 cities worldwide. 

24 hours more

These are lighter interventions where teams, who may be meeting in a city for a strategy meeting or an away day, spend 24 hours more together, going out into the city before they leave. The aim is to challenge their CQ, broaden their horizons and get them learning with each other.

Individual Immersions

We design a specific immersion for an individual senior leader to help them understand a city and its leaders and develop the CQ to operate there. Immersions can be general or focused on a particular issue.

Talks by Julia Middleton

Julia Middleton is the founder of Common Purpose and the author of Cultural Intelligence: CQ: The Competitive Edge for Leaders Crossing Borders (published by Bloomsbury). Julia speaks regularly on CQ to audiences around the world; her talks are for leaders of all ages.


The CQ Accelerator

The CQ Accelerator is an experiential online leadership programme which large groups of participants can complete together online. It is delivered to scale across an organization as a whole or for particular divisions, leadership groups and cohorts. It is often used as part of a D&I initiative or culture change programme to move people beyond general awareness of diversity to action.

It embeds CQ into large groups, allowing participants to learn together as they complete interactive exercises, address structured case studies and hold difficult conversations. They share their CQ learning and open each other’s eyes in the process.


Every year Common Purpose works with over 100 universities to run CQ programmes for 5,000 students in cities around the world. The aim is for the next generation of leaders to use the opportunities of studying alongside peers from many countries to gain a head start in their CQ.

On all our progammes established leaders join as group advisors. By working with these dynamic young leaders from a wide range of nationalities, backgrounds and academic disciplines, the group advisors themselves develop their own intergenerational CQ.

A number of organizations have become partners in this work with their leaders becoming group advisors in many locations.



Cultural Intelligence: CQ: The Competitive Edge for Leaders Crossing Boundaries

Julia Middleton is the founder of Common Purpose. This book, featuring discussions with leaders around the world, provides a powerful examination of Cultural Intelligence in different contexts. The recently published second edition goes further into the cultural collisions that can spark real innovation if the leader at the centre of them has CQ.


TEDx – Cultural Intelligence: the competitive edge for leaders

In this video, Julia Middleton takes us through the evolution from IQ to EQ to CQ – and its importance in an ever more interconnected world.

Mike Brown, Commissioner of Transport for London

“Common Purpose creates experiences so powerful that the things you learn about leadership and yourself will last a lifetime.”

The methodology

Core and Flex learning framework

Our simple yet sophisticated Core and Flex learning framework is key to developing CQ and is used on all our CQ programmes. This framework gives participants a structured way to unpack cultures - particularly their own culture. As they use the framework, they learn to deal effectively with difference within their teams or with their peers, partners, customers and stakeholders.

Experiential learning processes

The following processes are used to bring CQ vividly to life. Each one is debriefed using the Core and Flex framework to capture the learning and embed the outcomes.

Immersions: We take participants out into cities, to places and organizations they would never normally go, to see how leaders lead (and don’t lead) in many different contexts. These immersions are carefully designed and structured to maximize access and insight as participants are challenged in unfamiliar situations.

InnoVentures: On many of our programmes we set participants a challenge which they must work together to address. They use the InnoVenture process, which ensures they hear new voices, consider the unlikely, and learn how to draw out new ideas from the diversity within a team.

Cultures Collide: This particularly powerful process takes participants to the places in a city where cultures collide, to interview leaders at the point of collision. The aim is to learn how these resilient leaders use their CQ to turn the collision from a crash into a spark of innovation. This gives them the insight to uncover and work through the points of collision in their own organization.

Impact Diagnostics

The Team Inclusivity Index (TII): We have worked with clients around the world to develop the Team Inclusivity Index (TII) which assesses how inclusive a team is and provides a baseline, against which to measure progress. This looks at how the team works and doesn't work. How members interact and don't interact. What they think and what they avoid thinking. Whether issues of difference are papered over or not. It tells the team how inclusive, innovative and resilient they really are.

360 Assessment: Our 360 assessment provides leaders with valuable insight drawn from colleagues and peers. Unlike many 360 assessments, it explores a multitude of boundaries which leaders need to cross – some of which they may not have previously considered. In doing so, they gain a holistic picture of their effectiveness when working with people who are different to them, they uncover their strengths, weaknesses and blind spots so they can decide how best to address them.

Payal Ray, Head of Human Capital Development, Asia-Pac, BNP Paribas

“Sometimes the simplest tools lead to the most profound insights. As someone who works in all kinds of different situations that require CQ, I find that more and more I’m using the Core and Flex framework to understand myself and others.”

CQ to scale

A major global NGO wanted to embed a culture of inclusivity across their organization, for both staff and volunteers.

Over the following year, 1,500 staff and volunteers completed our CQ Accelerator. The organization’s Chief Operating Officer attended one of our global programmes. We delivered customized workshops for cohorts of 50, as well as a customized module at their annual staff conference. Simultaneously, as part of the organization’s talent strategy, a cohort of 15 high-potential emerging leaders were identified who would lead the organization and carry its culture in years to come. These emerging leaders took part in our open programmes

CQ Accelerator
Global programmes
Customized workshops
 360 assessments

A multi-national investment bank had been investing for many years in the diversity of the organization and wanted to take the issues of inclusion from awareness to practical action.

Senior leaders were placed onto our global programmes. We introduced the concept of CQ into the C-Suite by delivering a customized workshop with Common Purpose Founder, Julia Middleton. We delivered a series of customized workshops for employees as part of an in-house middle management programme, and for groups of Executives and their mentees. Emerging leaders participated in our Ventures programme. We also used the Team Inclusivity Index (TII), which enabled teams to both assess their inclusivity and think about how to respond to this insight.

Global programmes
Customized workshops

CQ in your organization

If you want to explore how we can help develop CQ within your organization, please get in contact and we'd be delighted to talk further.