Beneath the surface of observable human behavior and socio-cultural institutions are shared values and core worldview assumptions. A worldview is the story-based present tense grid work through which ones “sees” and interprets all aspects of life. Like most core foundations, worldviews are generally hidden from sight. They are outside of one’s awareness or tacitly assumed. A worldview may be fixed in time, that is, synchronic. However, the big story or metanarrative is not fixed in time, but spans across time. Metanarrative is diachronic.
Empirical research in the social sector shows that all societies have a system of classification, by which all aspects of life are divided into categories. There is an exposition of what is and is not. At a most basic level, humans have an awareness of self, Other, and the relationship between the two. These are the characters in the story. Inside these relationships lies the component of causality. The story has a plot. Causality provides movement to the plot. Finally, life is lived out in the setting of time and space.
In summary, six components or categories make up the worldview of any one person anywhere in the world. They are: self, Other, relationship, causality, time, and space. How does Global Perspectives define these core components of worldview?
- Self is the entire essential entity of a sentient human being who is distinct from but able to dynamically relate to Other.
- Other is the total environment that is distinct from but related to self. Other includes the material and immaterial worlds, entities that are other worldly and this worldly, including human and nonhumans.
- Relationship 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. Time and space occasionally rise to a level beyond simply the stage of life. They both can become foils in the story. For example, time is elevated to a place of causality among people who see time as linear and segment it into measurable and scheduled components such as minutes, hours, and days. A time/task orientation becomes a story character that influences the movement of the life story. In a similar way, space can rise to a role of causality. Some people believe that a confluence of spiritual powers may occupy a territorial region. Or, societies understand that designated locations are sacred.
It could not be emphasized more that unless one understands the core worldview assumptions of other people, communication across cultures will be woefully limited. For example, what are the most significant socio-cultural institutions in the culture in which you are attempting to carry out business processes? What are the values that drive each and every human interaction in the culture? What is the fear/power paradigm? Are you able to identify the source of the conflict? How does one negotiate with a high context, shame oriented business counterpart? How can we avoid the oft adopted approach that vacillates between the two extremes: “Our cultures are really the same” versus “They are stupid”? There is a better path forward.