Wednesday, May 29, 2013



Figure 1: What we see though…
Worldview is the “present tense story-grid through which we see and interpret all aspects of life”. Over time and in varied relationships story experiences form the grid-work of worldview. As such, the story narrative is diachronic. However, a worldview is synchronic. At any moment of time the story-grid of worldview forms the prism through which we perceive everything.
Michael Kearney from the University of California argues that all worldviews have interrelated classifications. He suggests sixclassifications: self, Other, relationships, causality, time, and space. See detailed definitions of these classifications below provided by Worldview Resource Group.1
A person’s worldview is not stagnant or motionless. It is not indifferent, that is, devoid of feeling. It is not simply a construct of cognitive assumptions. Even though, as per the insights of Edward T. Hall, worldview is generally tacitly assumed and outside of our awareness, worldview assumptions are deeply embraced and impact all aspects of our identity and values.
The Model of Culture depicted in Figure 2 shows the components of culture that are derived from core worldview assumptions about reality. Worldview assumptions about self, Other, relationships, causality, time, and space are the basis for values that inform
Figure 1: Model of Culture
Figure 2: Model of Culture
what ought and ought not to be. Values are inextricably linked to identity markers that regulate status and roles in society. Socio-cultural institutions are formed within a culture as people collectively embrace values, codify processes, and formalize groups. Finally, on the stage of life in real time/space history, people behave in observable ways. Socio-cultural institutions promote and prevent outward behavior based upon the shared values within a society.
Almost always the urgency of public policy in the government sector, the imperative of the  business transaction in the private sector, or the ministry objective in the non-profit sector conflicts with the stated need to understand people in a host society at a deep level. Deep understanding at a worldview level is not achieved easily. It requires time and authentic relationships. It necessitates intercultural competency. Urgency does not have time and cannot build relationships. Not infrequently, individuals in the public, private, and third sector tell interculturalists that worldview is too complicated to consider. Therefore, the tactic is to proceed without understanding, hoping that others will understand English, democracy, global business processes, and Western philosophical presumptions. Competency is sacrificed on the alter of urgency.
So, corporate executives attempt to negotiate in Bangalore, India in the same way they do in Denver, Colorado. Missionaries share Bible stories with Papua New Guinea spiritualists in a manner indistinguishable from a pastor preaching at a Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. What is the fallacy? Corporate executives assume that the status and roles in socio-cultural institutions in Denver mirror those in Bangalore. They do not. Missionaries assume that assumptions about what is real and what is not are the same in PNG as the Bay Area. They are not. In both settings, India and New Guinea, locals decode messages and observable behavior in vastly different ways from US Americans.
Not knowing others, lacking cultural intelligence, bemoaning complexity, and feeling like we do not have the time are not strategies for effectiveness across cultures. The reliability of negotiation tactics or verifiability of a Scriptural text does not trump worldview. The gap is not bridged. Ignoring worldview usually leads to failure and thwarted objectives.
Contact Global Perspectives Consulting to learn more about how to work across cultures.
1 Definitions: Self is the entire essential entity of a sentient human being that is distinct from and able to dynamically relate to Other. Other is the total environment that is distinct from but related to self. Relationships is the dynamic value-based interaction between self and Other that occurs within socio-cultural institutions. Causality is the orderly structured interplay between causes and effects. Time is a past, present, and future sequence of existence and events. Space is a demarcated multi-dimensional realm in which all things exist and all events occur.


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