Bridging Cultures for Safety (Intercultural Intelligence): The Three Colours of Worldview

Episode 059

Jan 17, 2024

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How do you build a culture of care in an intercultural world when each person operates from their own set of beliefs, norms and expectations?

Welcome to 2024 🎉

We've had a lovely few weeks' rest, have taken it easy, and are feeling refreshed and ready to bring the fullness of ourselves, the Safety Collaborators, into what we will be doing this year - with a few things up our sleeve [which we will share with you over the next few weeks] so stay tuned.

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The first one for the year is on February 2, so join us on that journey as well.

Intercultural Intelligence: Bridging Cultures for Safety

We've been having an interesting conversation in the last couple of days about events in the news.

Specifically, we've been talking about the airline events that have happened, and two or three of them have been quite prominent.

Within that conversation was the weekly travel article that Simon Calder wrote on January 5, 2024. Simon is part of the Independent and prolific in the travel industry.

E059_Intercultural Intelligence - 5 Jan 2024 Simon Calders Travel Week Article - Image

So all 379 passengers and crew escaped relatively unscathed after the Japan Airlines flight 516 burst into flames.

There is footage on YouTube [link in resources below] that talks about this incident and how all those passengers were evacuated in under 20 minutes, which is quite extraordinary.

So that was the one conversation that was interesting to us beyond the obvious reasons.

Three hundred seventy-nine people were evacuated very quickly, and that does come down to a culture that supports those safety briefings that we listen to whenever we go flying. They have a purpose.

We must remember that airline attendants are trained safety professionals;
their primary role is our safety.

In Alaska, there was another incident involving an emergency landing due to part of the fuselage detaching.

Remarkably, none of the 171 passengers or crew suffered serious injuries. Rapid loss of pressure triggered the oxygen masks to descend, and fortunately, the two seats near the detached part were unoccupied. We believe that most passengers were wearing seat belts.

Despite the incident, the captain swiftly assessed the situation, safely turning the plane around and landing.

These two real and still emotionally charged incidents prompt reflection on cultural behaviours and their connection to safety.

Examining the various cultural behaviours displayed in such situations and considering how they might manifest in different countries or workplaces is vital.

Earlier we noted that the Japanese airline incident seemed remarkably orderly.

  • Passengers adhered to procedures, even amidst understandable anxiety.
  • People didn't grab their belongings but evacuated calmly, removing shoes and leaving everything behind, ensuring everyone's safe exit.
  • There was no stampede or chaos.

However, we wonder how such incidents might unfold in cultures or regions less inclined toward orderliness. These situations could play out quite differently in places where orderliness isn't a cultural norm.

Nuala recently flew through Ethiopia on her way to Stockholm, and it was a striking contrast.

The flight there was orderly, calm, and well-organised. However, the return flight was chaotic.
Her flight was delayed, and the scene at security resembled a marketplace.

This got her thinking about cultural behaviours and how biases and perceptions influence our reactions. In emergencies, Nuala tends to take charge, which might be seen as rude in some cultures.

In bridging cultures for safety, it's essential to consider cultural perceptions and behaviours, like the Japanese culture's orderliness.

Another news story making headlines here in the UK is the post office scandal.

It's a tragic tale involving around 700 individuals and their families. This ordeal has been ongoing for approximately 15 years, with some 700 postmasters wrongly accused of criminal actions due to the Post Office's faulty accounting software.

It's a glaring example of a blame culture, where the system's flaws were pinned on the innocent. This injustice ranks as one of the most significant in UK history, involving a major IT company, the government, and a range of complexities.

It reflects a culture of cover-up and pointing fingers, where individuals are presumed guilty until proven innocent, and sometimes even innocence isn't acknowledged.

All these stories highlight cultural ways of being.

In the post office case, it's a presumption of guilt until proven otherwise, or perhaps even avoiding proving innocence, which is even more troubling.

In contrast, the Japanese story illustrates orderliness, organisation, and strict adherence to rules. Cultural norms differ, and what constitutes a culture of care may vary significantly between worldviews.

Our conversation delves into the impact of individual personalities and cultural worldviews.

Cultural worldviews encompass national, familial, and community influences that shape our perspectives. Bridging cultures for safety involves fostering better understanding and recognising that our differences stem from diverse lenses through which we view the world.

Cultural differences can exist even within the same country, as seen in various towns or regions. Embracing these differences as a kaleidoscope of diversity rather than fearing them is crucial.

To facilitate this understanding, we utilise tools like the Three Colors of World View framework to navigate intercultural communication beyond language barriers.

It helps us appreciate that each individual interprets the world in a unique way.

Intercultural Intelligence: Three Colours of Worldview

E059_Bridging Cultures for Safety (Intercultural Intelligence): The Three Colours of Worldview - Image 1

The Three Colours of World View framework, developed by Marco Blankenburgh of Knowledgeworkx based in Dubai, UAE, offers a fascinating perspective on cultural diversity.

Karin has undergone certification with them twice, initially in 2013 and a refresher three years ago. 

This concept resembles mixing colours to create a diverse range of shades, symbolising the unique characteristics of the human race. No two individuals are identical, even within the same culture, as beliefs and perceptions can vary significantly. 

The Three Colours of World View framework identifies three core drivers of culture: 

1- Honour <> Shame
2- Innocence <> Guilt
3- Power <> Fear

These drivers, while present in individuals worldwide, manifest in different proportions.

For instance, Karin's assessment reveals she is 25.2% honour-shame, 55.6% innocent-guilt, and 19.2% power-fear oriented. The innocent-guilt aspect heavily influences her worldview.

These cultural preferences play a vital role in shaping our behaviour and reactions. Conversations around these preferences can be enlightening. By exploring our strengths and values within these drivers, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. 

Understanding these drivers allows us to appreciate cultural nuances and individual differences better. It's not about categorising people but creating a space for healthy conversations and navigating various contexts. 

Context matters and these drivers influence how we perceive and react to situations, whether by honouring, doing the right thing, or maintaining authority.

What do we do individually when we understand our reactions and behaviours?

This understanding empowers us to make choices, irrespective of our emotions or past experiences. It allows us to decide our course of action in the present moment.

Sometimes, these choices may diverge from the traditions, rules, or customs ingrained in us. We do this when we realise that these patterns no longer serve us in our current situations, hindering our interactions with others.

This ability to choose is invaluable, especially in work scenarios.

Imagine working for a company with a particular worldview (X) while you personally adhere to a different worldview (Y). Additionally, your colleague may come from yet another worldview (Z).

In such cases, effective collaboration becomes essential despite these differences.

Recognising that there's no absolute right or wrong in this context is crucial. Every individual, whether a team member or leader, brings unique value. The goal is to facilitate meaningful intercultural conversations.

Consider the challenges faced by individuals appointed to lead organisations in foreign countries. Many of them struggle, experiencing burnout and significant mental health issues due to a lack of understanding and support.

Intercultural interactions go far beyond superficial aspects like food and handshakes. They delve into deeper dimensions, and in the next episode, we'll explore the 12 dimensions of culture, encompassing various perspectives on power, communication, and knowledge sharing.

Let's explore how these three worldviews interact.

It's important to note that being classified as a particular worldview, such as Power<>Fear, doesn't mean one is limited to that perspective. Each person can embody different worldviews depending on the context. There's no strict categorisation.

In societies primarily influenced by the Innocence<>Guilt lens, honour is associated with following both the letter and spirit of the law. This perspective focuses on right and wrong, akin to stopping at a red light.

However, individuals from an Honour<>Shame orientation may struggle to grasp other cultures' broader range of honour and shame concepts. For them, it's not about rigid definitions of right and wrong but about honouring the community and avoiding shame.

This can lead to misunderstandings when interpreting actions across different worldviews.

Power<>Fear is a common aspect of hierarchical structures found in political, educational, and healthcare systems. Those with a Power<>Fear orientation value authority and hierarchy. However, how power is wielded within these hierarchies can vary significantly.

It can either empower and inspire individuals or create fear, insecurity, and ambiguity. The choices made by those in positions of power determine whether they promote a positive or negative environment.

Power dynamics play a pivotal role in shaping individuals' perceptions and behaviours in various contexts, including family and education.

While cultural worldviews differ, the choices made within these frameworks ultimately impact interpersonal relationships and broader communities.

Three Colours of Worldview Litmus Test.

The Three Colours of Worldview Litmus Test is a valuable tool which can be applied to both your internal world, including thoughts and feelings, and your external world, encompassing how your words and actions may impact the world around you.

The test consists of three questions:

  1. Does my action bring honour to those involved, or does it bring them shame?
  2. Is it the right thing to do, or does it do justice to those involved?
  3. Is it empowering and life-giving, or does it diminish fear or instil increased fear?

By asking yourself these three questions, you can gain valuable insights into various aspects of your life. For instance, you can reflect on past situations, understanding why some went well and where you might have made mistakes.

Additionally, you can use this test to shape your behaviours and improve relationships or evaluate how a diverse audience will receive policies, procedures, and communication.

These are just a few examples, so let us know your ideas on how else you think it could be helpful.

Understanding our personalities, perceptions, and biases is essential, and the Three Colours of Worldview assessment can be your first step in developing intercultural agility.

Final Thoughts

We wanted to share these thoughts with you today on intercultural intelligence / conversations / agility to get the juices flowing on Bridging Cultures for Safety and developing and continuing that Culture of Care.

This is such a big topic, and we cannot cover it in a half-hour podcast, probably not even in a three-hour one, but it would be interesting to hear what this has triggered in you.

  • Were you sitting thinking that this is really interesting and wanting to know more?
  • Or has it triggered a lot of emotion you don't think you want to face?
  • What is this triggering in you right now?

How can we have a conversation around that?

There's a fabulous little form at the top of this page where you can let us know your thoughts. It will come to us, and we will respond - it doesn't sign you up for anything, even though we would love you to sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Let us know what this is triggering for you - it would be great to hear.

Do reach out to us if you'd like to learn more about this, whether as an individual or a group, and you want to do an assessment.

If you would like to know more about our Bridging Cultures for Safety program, the link is in the resource section below or reach out to us at [email protected] because if you want to create a Culture of Care in diverse cultures, you have to start exploring the unknown and help that become known by having the deep #conversationsthatmatter.

Tune in next week for E060, where we will go deeper and explore another piece of the puzzle,
The 12 Dimensions of Culture, and help you explore how to bring this into your world.

About the Show

Our purpose in sharing this podcast is to have a chinwag (conversation) to help people change how they think and behave about safety. 

We do this by engaging in dialogue and testing the levels of trust and psychological safety, which are core to organisational culture. Making safety part of your DNA so that your people speak up, show up, do right, and become safer every day for yourself, your team, and your business.

We will explore topics related to organisational and safety culture, leadership, the language of risk, emotional literacy, psychological safety, conversational agility, intercultural intelligence, and whatever else pops up during our conversations—sharing our experiences and learnings. 

We intend to share nuggets of wisdom that will challenge your perspectives, potentially solve a nagging problem, share actions you can implement, and give you at least one aha moment.

And, if you enjoyed the show and gained value, please share with just one other person to help spread the word.