Different Worldviews, part 1

One of the most challenging things about leadership and the interaction with and between followers (which is actually applicable to all kinds of relationships, whether private or professional) is difference in worldviews. I mentioned it in relation to the concept of my company and how it complicates the leadership phenomena – and will continue to do so. Hence, I think it makes sense to write this clarifying two-piece about different worldviews – so people following StormBlog know what I talk about when using the term, and to be able to go back for clearing it up for any future newcomers.

First time I bumped into the issue of conflicting worldviews was during research with Erik – I will get back to this research and the things we found in (an)other article(s). Actually, everyone (hence also me) have experienced differences in attitudes, positions, opinions, etc., privately and/ or at work – but during research was the first time I worked academically with diverging viewpoints and how they can (and do) influence organizational productivity – with James Taylor coining the term “worldviews“. So, not something new and revolutionary – but having a term to capture things from our experience (yes, I talk about theory) makes it easier to work with and understand.

 

“Not something new and revolutionary”

It really isn’t! Different worldviews simply means that you think one thing about something and I think another; some people vote to the right and some to the left; some value materialistic wealth and some don’t measure wealth in physical or economic units. We are (fortunately!) different, and so is our thinking, emotions and personal stances.

Even though it is evident that different people think equally different, it’s however not that obvious to people when they encounter these disparities in the everyday. What IS obvious (when not involved yourself) is WHAT causes these clashes: Partly they occur due to lack of understanding of how the other part can think the way he or she does, and partly (mainly in my view) it’s simply due to lack of respect for other people’s thinking.

 

It’s okay to disagree – and you should!

I’m NOT talking about normal discussions that’re part of every normal day whether in the private sphere or at work. Disagreements are a healthy part of every human relation or interaction; disagreeing makes you consider your own position towards different topics; teaches you to argument; and is the road to new understandings.

 

Communicating worldviews in organizations

As for all intra-organizational elements, internal communication plays a significant role in the existence of worldviews: from the communicative theorizing about how different people ascribe meaning to situations (sensemaking to be covered in a future article), over how worldviews come into existence, evolve to positive development or to clashes/problems, and are maintained over time when people talk about them. If they are never expressed it doesn’t mean that they won’t be a problem (on the contrary!). Oftentimes things are smoldering if kept down, which can lead to even bigger (and perhaps irreparable) future problems, separation of organizational members and positions and in extension to declining productivity and profitability.

 

Just talk about it!

’Communication’ comes from the latin commūnicāre, which means «to share» – and therein lies (part of) the solution to the problems arising from contrasting worldviews.
Though human interactions as well as the thoughts and sensemaking linked to them represent a very complex correlation, the (part of a) “solution” to the problems stemming from here is not necessarily equivalent. What is widely pronounced and acknowledged in communication and sociological theory is that articulation of standpoints contributes to a harmonization of these, and not least that it offers a larger platform for the aforementioned (building of) respect. So really, just talk about it.

You might think about why I’m quoting solution in the section above. With theoretical constructs still roaming my thinking, I draw on some of these when they offer a valid explanation or tangibility (like the case with worldviews). One of these is Keith Grintarguing that ONE solution that satisfy everybody doesn’t really exist when you talk about leadership. This corresponds perfectly with the worldviews perspective – how should one thing make everybody happy as people think differently? What you (cf. Grint) can (try) is to make a compromise pleasing as many as possible.

Can you really solve things just by talking? The answer is of course ‘no’ but is a little more nuanced than that. In the second part of this article I’ll shed light on this matter; furthermore I’ll exemplify how contrasting worldviews unfolds; and ask you a favor – read it here. Follow StormConnect and the blog for more 🙂

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