Working with worldviews

“The more aware we are of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we can take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perspectives, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view.”
Stephen Covey, in 'The 7 habits of highly effective people'

Worldviews as tool for organizational change

Working with worldviews is a powerful way to improve our communications, collaborations, and strategies, as well as to foster creativity and innovation. It helps us to ‘think out of the box’, and become more aware of the box we usually operate from. It helps us to understand our organizational culture and improve and empower it. It helps us to become more attuned to others’ worldviews, thus enhancing how we work with, and communicate to others.

Worldviews are a great ‘mapping’ and reflection tool; they can help us understand “where we are at”, both individually and collectively. They shine light on the assumptions, attitudes, and ideas from which we approach the world, day after day. These assumptions shape our experience of life, and yet we are often not fully aware of them.

Individually, exploring our worldviews can give us self-insight. We start looking at our own experience with more distance and objectivity. We are no longer fully embedded in our experience, but we are looking at it, almost as a bystander: neutral, yet with compassion and curiosity.

Collectively, exploring worldviews gives us insight in our organizational culture ~ both its potentials and its limitations. It gives us an assessment, so that we can work on optimizing it. It also supports us to develop our communication and strategies in a way that is more inclusive, creative, and empowering.

Benefits of a worldview-approach

There are several distinct benefits to using a worldview-approach:

Understanding the worldviews present in our contemporary society and contemplating our own worldview will make us much more reflexive. That is, more aware of the beliefs and values that habitually drive our actions and decisions, often without us even knowing it.

While being reflective refers to the quality of being able to stand back and take perspective, being reflexive means that we, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, ‘turn or reflect back upon the mind itself’. That is, rather than that we merely reflect on a certain situation, we reflect on our own attitudes, thought processes, values, assumptions, prejudices, and habitual (re)actions in relation to that situation.

We may, for example, find that, without knowing, we are subtly co-creating a situation that we don’t desire and is not serving us. Becoming aware of that, we are newly empowered to act in ways that are more aligned with our purposes.

Because reflexivity goes much deeper than mere reflection, it also has the potential to empower us in more profound ways. More aware of our own worldview-commitments, a wider range of choices for action open up. You could see this as becoming more aware of, what we in popular language call, “the box”, thereby gaining in our capacity to start thinking and moving beyond that box. And beyond the box, the sky is the limit…

More aware of our own and others’ worldviews, we are likely to become more sensitive and strategic communicators. Instead of communicating from our own worldview as if that worldview is shared by everyone, we are now able to make our assumptions and values more explicit and clear to others, as well as to more sensitively respond to those of others.

We may adapt our language, our argumentations, and our emotional style in order to resonate with those we are speaking with. Although this may sound as a superficial marketing-tool, we instead use it to invite a larger, compassionate perspective that aims to respect and understand a diversity of views. Such a compassionate view demands us to take the perspective of other worldviews ~ that is, step in their shoes, aiming to empathetically resonate with their divergent ways of seeing, being, and feeling.

This capacity therefore tends to support communications that foster coordination, bridge divisions, synthesize positions, and synergistically align perspectives towards common goals and ‘win-win solutions.’

When we are not aware of our worldview and the worldview-dynamics in society, we tend to develop strategies based on, and within the framework of, the (implicit, unconscious) assumptions and values that make up our own worldview. However useful these strategies may be, they are limited to “the box” of that worldview, and generally not particularly effective at appealing to other worldviews, nor at drawing on their different qualities, perspectives, and ‘geniuses’.

Consciously working with different worldview-perspectives, and (either imaginarily or physically) including them in the process of our strategy-development, is therefore likely to result in more robust and innovative strategies ~ strategies that will also appeal to multiple worldviews rather than to just our own.

Because this process includes a careful exploration of the values and views that are the motivational drivers behind the solutions, policies, or strategies that one is advocating, and examining them from a multiplicity of perspectives, it also facilitates greater policy-reflexivity.

New worldviews are emerging that respond in highly innovative ways to both the immense crisis as well as the unprecedented possibilities of this time.

One such newly emerging worldview with great creative power is the integrative worldview. This worldview attempts to synthesize some of the great polarities our society struggles with, such as science versus spirituality, economy versus ecology, individual versus collective, and profit versus solidarity.

Exploring the nature of this worldview and practicing its defining qualities will ‘train your brain’ to access the benefits of these new ways of thinking and being, such as the capacity to overcome entrenched polarities and come up with synergistic, ‘and-and’ or ‘win-win’ (instead of ‘either-or’) solutions that speak to a diversity of people. It also gives you a powerful advantage in responding to where the Zeitgeist is currently moving.

Market trends, changing social values, and shifting public opinions all take place within a larger context of historical-cultural change. At present, culture seems to be evolving particularly rapidly. This evolution of culture, values, and worldviews takes place according to a certain logic, rather than being random.

Exploring the sequence, dynamics, and internal logic of such worldview-changes, as well as the ways they manifest and express in society, will give you a (research-based) understanding of how your market or target groups are developing. This will give your organization an advantage in anticipating future trends, addressing weaknesses in your current approach, and timely responding to emerging possibilities.

Sensing into the newly emerging structures and ideas of the future as they manifest themselves in some of the most cutting-edge, innovative organizations also has the potential of unleashing great creativity with respect to your own organization and strategy.

By contributing to sustainability you are increasing your relevance as an organization. Not only because your market or target audience is increasingly likely to value these issues, but also because globally we are in such an immense need of sustainable solutions that any organization contributing to these issues is ‘ahead of the game’ and will create major advantages for itself in the longer term.

Generally speaking, when we work with worldviews we tap into the core-motivations and beliefs of individuals and organizations. While certain worldviews naturally have a more green and sustainable value-profile, every worldview has a potential for contributing to our global sustainability issues. However, different worldviews do that in different ways, and have different motivations for doing so.

Working with a worldview-approach, we connect with the unique motivations and strengths of each worldview for contributing to global sustainability issues. Moreover, exploring worldviews fosters reflexivity and empowers intrinsic motivations, which contribute to a more sustainable and sustainability-oriented as well as a more creative culture within your organization.

“Our worldview is not simply the way we look at our world. It reaches inward to constitute our innermost being, and outward to constitute the world. It mirrors but also reinforces and even forges the structures, armorings, and possibilities of our interior life. It deeply configures our psychic and somatic experience, the patterns of our sensing, knowing and interacting with the world. No less potently, our worldview ~ our beliefs and theories, our maps, our metaphors, our myths, our interpretive assumptions ~ constellates our outer reality, shaping and working the world’s malleable potentials in a thousand ways of subtly reciprocal interaction. Worldviews create worlds.”
Richard Tarnas, in 'Cosmos and Psyche'
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