Wednesday, May 29, 2013



Beneath the surface of observable human behavior and socio-cultural institutions are sharedvalues and core worldview assumptions. A worldview is the story-grid through which ones “sees” and interprets all aspects of life. Like most foundations, worldviews are generally hidden from sight. They are outside one’s awareness or tacitly assumed. [The concept of worldview was popularized in 1954 through a book by Robert Redfield, a professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Chicago. Later in 1984, it was skillfully analyzed by Michael Kearney, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Riverside. Historically, our English word worldview is borrowed from the German noun weltanschauung.]The graphic below, provided by Global Perspectives Consulting, identifies fourcomponents of worldview. They are described both in story terms as well as categories adapted from the writings of Kearney.
Empirical research shows that all societies have a classification system, by which all aspects of life are divided into categories. It is an exposition of what is and is not. At a most basic level, humans have an awareness of selfother, and the relationship between the two. These are thecharacters in the story. Inside these relationships lies a component of cause and effect. The story has a plot. Finally, life is lived out in the setting of time and space.
Are these explanations merely philosophical or do they have application to business processes? What happens when the U.S. American SOF trainer does not understand the classification system of the Wolof-speaking soldier in the Senegalese army? The Wolof people believe in personal spirit beings and impersonal spirit forces. The SOF trainer may not. Rather than kevlar type III body armor, the Wolof warrior understands that his amulet phylactery containing verses from the Qur’an will provide equal protection. Or, at a negotiating table are businesspeople from both vaishya and sudra communities. How does one know who is who? How will they relate? Which negotiation strategy should be employed?
Without understanding worldview components across cultures, at best, communication will be extraordinarily shallow. And, likely, efforts in normal business processes will result in folly.


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