KnowledgeWorkx – Cultural Intelligence and the Three Colors of Worldview

KnowledgeWorkx | building global intelligence

A few years ago I was involved in Dubai in a leadership workshop done by KnowledgeWorkx a consultancy firm led by Marko Blankenburgh, which is specialised in inter-cultural training. One of the most interesting topic we have dealt with was that of the three basic worldviews that we find in the world. These are like coloured lenses that determine to a large extent our perceptions and interpretation of the world. Let me give you an example.

Remember the ‘parable of the two sons’, that we find in Mat. 21:28-32 and, for the sake of this exercise, let us stick to the first part of the parable (v.28-30).

So, basically, a father asks one of his sons to do something for him. His son says no, but then changes him mind and does. Receiving a negative answer, the father goes to his second son and asks him the same thing. The son says yes, but then dose nothing about it.

Think about the first reaction of the two sons. Which reaction dishonoured the father, at least in the first instance? If you are a European, like me, or a Westerner, you may be surprised to realise that the son who dared to say no to his father, even if he changed his mine later, did indeed show disrespect to his father – he dishonoured him.

Of course, the point of this parable, for Jesus, was not to teach about worldviews, but to emphasize the importance of obedience, but isn’t it interesting to observe that, if we share a different worldview that the traditional culture in Palestine at the time of Jesus, questions like those related to honour sound strange to us?

Based on up to date anthropological research, KnowledgeWorkx talks about three basic types on worldview:

1. Guilt/Innocence

In a Guilt/Innocence focused culture, schools focus on deductive reasoning, cause and effect, good questions, and process. Issues are often seen as black and white. Written contracts are paramount. Communication is direct, and can be blunt.

2. Honor/Shame

Societies with a predominantly Honor/Shame worldview teach children to make honorable choices according to the situations they find themselves in. Communication, interpersonal interaction, and business dealings are very relationship-driven, with every interaction having an effect on the honor/shame status of the participants.

3. Power/Fear

Societies with a predominantly Power/Fear worldview raise children to assess where they fit into the pecking order of every situation they are in, and behave accordingly. As they grow up, they learn how to align themselves with the right people to gain more power.

The world in which we live becomes more and more like a global village, in which different cultures interact. If we travel globally, or if our work puts us in regular contact with people of different cultures of religions, we may have realised already that without cultural intelligence we will not be able to make it in such a complex environment.

Although some of us are more empathetic culturally than others, because none of us is born with a deep knowledge of other cultures and with the skills to navigate this dangerous context, the help that entities like KnowledgeWorks is providing to global players, be those for profit or in the humanitarian sector, is absolutely invaluable.

So, how does it work? Here is what friends at this consultancy firm have to say about it:

How the Three Worldviews Interact

In many societies that see things primarily through a Guilt/Innocence lens, what is “honorable” is whatever follows the letter and spirit of the law. People from this culture can find it hard to understand the diverse range of things that can fall under honor and shame in other cultures.

Honor/Shame societies can find it difficult to correctly interpret the actions of people from Guilt/Innocence societies, who often display behaviors that bring shame to themselves or to their colleagues without realizing that they have done so.

Power/Fear is a natural part of many hierarchies, and is often found in large organizations, particularly the military and large corporations . However, societies with strong Power/Fear worldviews are usually led by strong authority figures, and very hierarchical. In these societies or organizations, people maintain power through instilling fear in others.

Each of the cultural lenses have positives and negatives, and all of them are present in some mixture in every culture. They represent the basic beliefs which undergird the norms and values that people create. If you want to learn more about those beliefs and values, take a look the 12 Dimensions of Culture.

Use of the Three Colors of Worldview

We find the Three Colors to be a useful starting point when analyzing intercultural situations. They are easy to remember, and they provide an easy and flexible framework through which to understand what is going on in the world around you.

To arrange for a Three Colors of Worldview assessment and to learn more about how you can communicate with people with other mixes of worldview more effectively, Contact us. If you would like to influence the direction that future development of the Three Colors of Worldview takes, tell us how you would like to use the Three Colors of Worldview

Editors Note: The Three Colors of Worldview are universally applicable and understandable in a wide range of cultural contexts. However, we do not assign actual colors to the three Worldviews because colors have different connotations in different cultures.

(Source, HERE).

If you are interested to find out more about this very interesting topic, browse the KnowledgeWorkx website and get in contact with them (You may also find them on Facebook).

Learn and enjoy! May we all become more culturally intelligent!



Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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