Aligning Organizational Strategy with Business Impact: The role of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). Dr. William E Hamilton, Ph.D. 24 Nov, 2023

In the last article, I talked about assessing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) with the intercultural development inventory (IDI) in organizations and basically hinted at a few models. In this article, I would like to talk about today's globalized business landscape, a little bit about agility in the changing environment, and how aligning organizational strategy with desired business outcomes necessitates a deep understanding of cultural dynamics and alignment of concrete initiatives of the business strategy for obtaining the desired business results. The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) emerges as a likely key tool in this endeavor, offering organizations a method to enhance intercultural competence and drive strategic goals with business impact.

The IDI: A Tool for Cultural Competence

Educational setting with a diverse group of students and professionals in a workshop. CC with attribute.

The IDI is recognized as a premier assessment tool for building cultural competence in organizations and schools (link)​​. There must, however, be a vision, mission, purpose, strategic objectives, and specific performance goals that indicate progress toward the vision in the context of the IDI. In some cases, the mission incorporates the purpose and is not that long. I prefer two, a mission and purpose, that provide a mission that is well defined but not long; that incorporates what the organization does, its culture, and its values and is important for pulling strategic objectives that are clear, focused, and facilitate creating a great description of the mission elements (not too long though). The IDI measures the ability to shift cultural perspectives and adapt behaviors to cultural differences and commonalities, crucial for effective global operations (link)​​:

1. Improved Intercultural Competence: The IDI assesses and helps facilitate the development of intercultural competence, directly impacting how organizations engage in global markets and manage diverse teams​. Again, creating a vision that incorporates the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and development plans aligned with strategic business objectives involves envisioning a future where cultural competence is central to an organization's success. This was talked about in the McKinsey & Company article that suggested that organizations that are culturally diverse are 35% more likely to outperform the competition in terms of profitability. Strategic objectives must be clear as does specific goals.

Here's how that might look:

Vision Statement: "Leading the Global Broadcast and Telecommunications Landscape through Intercultural Innovation"

Our Vision: As pioneers in the Broadcasting and Telecommunications industry, our vision is to harness the power of cultural diversity to revolutionize how the world connects and communicates. We believe that mastering intercultural dynamics through the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) is not just a commitment to inclusivity but a strategic imperative that drives innovation, profitability, and customer engagement.

Integrating IDI into Our Strategic Plan:

1. Intercultural Competence for Global Connectivity: Recognizing the global nature of broadcasting and telecommunications, we see the IDI as essential in developing our team's ability to understand and engage with diverse cultures. This cultural agility is key to expanding our global network, enhancing customer relations, and exploring new market opportunities.

2. Content Creation with Cultural Insight: Utilizing IDI insights, we aim to create content that resonates across cultures, breaking barriers and building bridges. This approach directly impacts our goal of being a market leader in content that is both culturally relevant and globally appealing.

3. Innovative Solutions through Cultural Perspectives: In our industry, innovation is the cornerstone of success. By fostering a workforce fluent in intercultural competence, we will drive creativity and innovation in developing technology and services that meet the nuanced needs of a diverse global audience.

4. Cultural Competence in Customer Experience: Embedding IDI-driven strategies in our customer service protocols will enhance our ability to provide exceptional and culturally sensitive experiences, a critical factor in customer retention and brand loyalty in the competitive broadcasting and telecommunications sector.

5. Measuring Success and Cultivating Growth: We commit to continuously measure the impact of our intercultural initiatives on business outcomes, using these insights to refine our strategies, being agile and able to pivot. This ongoing evaluation ensures that our intercultural competence aligns with and enhances our business objectives, including market expansion and profitability.

Realizing the Vision: This vision positions us at the forefront of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications industry, leveraging intercultural competence as a vehicle for innovation and market leadership. By intertwining cultural understanding with our business strategies, we aim to not only achieve superior financial performance but also set new standards for global connectivity and cultural inclusivity in the digital age.

2. Alignment with Business Objectives: Organizations using the IDI can align their workforce's cultural competence with their broader business goals, fostering a workplace that is both inclusive and strategically focused​​.

Here's how that might look:

Strategic Objective 1: Enhance Global Market Presence

  • Goal: Increase international subscriber base by 25% by Q4 2025.
  • Action Steps:
  • Launch culturally tailored marketing campaigns in key international markets by Q2 2024.
  • Utilize IDI insights to adapt communication and promotional strategies to local cultural nuances.

Strategic Objective 2: Innovate Content Creation with Cultural Insights

  • Goal: Achieve a 30% viewership increase in culturally diverse content by Q1 2026.
  • Action Steps:
  • Develop and release at least five major series or programs annually, starting in 2024, that reflect global cultural diversity.
  • Conduct IDI assessments for content creation teams by Q3 2024 to guide culturally informed content development.

Strategic Objective 3: Drive Technological Innovation through Cultural Perspectives

  • Goal: Introduce three new culturally adaptive technology features or services by 2025.
  • Action Steps:
  • Initiate cross-cultural research and development teams by mid-2024.
  • Integrate IDI assessments into R&D processes to ensure cultural considerations are embedded in new technologies.

Strategic Objective 4: Cultivate a Culturally Competent Customer Experience

  • Goal: Reduce customer churn rate by 15% in international markets by Q3 2026.
  • Action Steps:
  • Implement IDI-based training for customer service teams by the end of 2024.
  • Develop customer feedback mechanisms specifically designed to gather insights on cultural competence by Q2 2025.

Strategic Objective 5: Continuous Evaluation and Growth

  • Goal: Achieve a 20% annual improvement in IDI scores across the organization by 2025.
  • Action Steps:
  • Conduct annual IDI assessments and development workshops starting in 2024.
  • Review and adjust cultural competence strategies annually based on IDI results and business performance metrics.

Of course, the vision, strategic objectives, and goals shown here are only examples based on industry, but one can see in the continuous performance improvement (CPI) model, the process of re-examining this loop in agile environments to reaffirm such vision, objectives, and goals before weighing and prioritizing potential solutions-- both training and non-raining solution, is paramount.

Impact of Cultural Competence on Business Results

“tangible benefits”
Vibrant modern office environment showcasing diverse teams and professionals. CC with attribute.

As mentioned, research (McKinsey & Company article) has demonstrated the tangible benefits of cultural competence in the workplace in the form of profits, businesses with more than 30% women outperform those with 10-20% women, how:

Innovation and Problem Solving: Diverse perspectives, knowledge, and skills improve problem-solving and innovation, driving organizations forward (link)​​. The example vision showed how integrating the IDI into a strategic plan might work. The strategic objectives and specific goals took that idea a lot further with concrete examples.

Market Expansion: Cultural competence equips organizations to communicate and operate effectively in diverse cultural settings, which is essential for global market expansion​​. Market expansion, clearly stated, goes hand in hand with talk about attrition, cost savings, succession planning, high potential, and intervention initiatives that have a business impact. The question becomes, what is the performance measure that is to change? If you can't answer that when putting forth initiatives, there's a problem! Alignment, alignment, alignment; chain of evidence, chain of evidence, chain of evidence; and business impact, business impact, business impact!

Enhanced Communication and Productivity: Culturally competent teams show improved communication and collaboration, leading to better engagement and productivity. This requires a certain level of cultural awareness and sensitivity the IDI can help measure and IDI intercultural development plans (IDP) can help guide the way to success. IDI-qualified assessors (QA) are required when ordering such tests and must provide counsel. While they will introduce the IDP to clients, they are not required to help them develop that plan, however, they can be made available. Because there are different continuums or competencies in the IDI scheme, not all IDI QAs can provide counsel to continuums at or above the IDI QA's intercultural competence.

Employee Satisfaction and Retention: A culturally competent environment enhances employee satisfaction, confidence, and creativity, contributing to a positive workplace culture and reduced turnover. Again, any measures or indicators, such as net promoter scores, engagement, loyalty, or any other required goals must be explicitly written down and how they might provide business impact.

"It's hard to create a succession plan without first thinking about objectives like market expansion"

Moving Forward with IDI

Corporate strategy meeting with a diverse group of executives and leaders. CC with atttribute.

Adopting and integrating the IDI in strategic planning is more than a diversity initiative; it's a strategic business decision with far-reaching implications. As organizations strive to achieve their global objectives, the IDI provides a structured and effective way to enhance intercultural competence, aligning it with business outcomes. The key words are alignment for impact!


Symbolic and visionary image representing the culmination of strategy, alignment, IDI, and business impact. CC with attribute.

Here is an image that symbolically represents the culmination of strategy, alignment, the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), and business impact. It depicts a harmonious and diverse group of people from different cultural backgrounds, interconnected through global business elements and digital interfaces driven by data analytics. The scene conveys unity, understanding, and collaborative problem-solving, highlighting the role of IDI in fostering global harmony and effective business solutions with impact. With Focused Impact (see the previous article): people driving processes towards profits (SROI for non-profits) with clarity and purpose, achieving aligned SMART STAR results. SROI is a social return on investment. Assessing the potential application of the IDI for business impact on organizations for DEIB, most project initiatives can be done.

Integrating the IDI into organizational strategy is a transformative step. I invite you to share your experiences or thoughts on this integration. Have you seen the impact of the IDI in aligning organizational strategies with business results? Let’s discuss how this tool can further facilitate strategic success in our diverse business world. I am an IDI QA, certified professional in talent development (CPTD), and TEFL-qualified English consultant, and help drive that innovation and change!

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