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Two Spotlights Illuminating Human Behavior

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

Personality and Culture, Part 1 of 2 (Read part 1)

KnowledgeWorkx’ innovative approach to understanding human behavior through personal cultural preferences opens up worlds of opportunity for inter-cultural leaders, teams, and global corporations.

In our first article in this series we talked about the emergence of Self-Cultural Analysis and the power of understanding culture at the personal level.

Self-Cultural Analysis treats each person as a unique cultural being, helping us avoid the traps of ethnic stereotyping, and equips us to understand individuals through a framework of their own cultural preferences.

Mainstream psychometric tools like DiSC, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and Social Styles have given us a valuable understanding of human behavior from the perspective of personality. Self-Cultural Analysis comes alongside them to shine a bright light on human behavior and culture.

Self-Cultural Analysis and personality-driven frameworks work best alongside each other, with the power of cultural understanding as a distinct spotlight.

From our very beginning as a company, KnowledgeWorkx has been dedicated to turning on both the interpersonal and intercultural spotlights to help you thrive as an individual, team or organization.

The Shortcomings of Psychology

The world of psychology gives some deep insights into human behavior, but as it stands today the field has a fundamental cultural bias.

Since the systematization of psychology began in earnest in the the west in the 1960-s, western systems have been enthusiastically exported around the world, often with the stated or assumed belief that they will be universally applicable.

Western views on personhood and personality come prepackaged within business practices and systems, and as a result have deeply influenced the way global businesses approach talent development, client interfacing, leadership styles, and team and organizational culture challenges.

The world of psychology wants you to believe they are the 'go-to-people' to help you figure out human behavior, and there is a strong assumption that psychology is enough to relate to people anywhere.

But what about culture? Miscalculations, miscommunications and tensions from cultural differences impact business relationships every day – increasingly so as the world becomes more interconnected.

Going Global

In 2018 it is estimated that 1.3 billion employees interact on a daily basis with colleagues, clients, suppliers and stakeholders in other parts of the world. To give just one example, the building of an Airbus A380 requires around 4 million parts produced by 1500 companies from 30 countries around the globe.

Billions of people around the world also live in large cities where cultural diversity is the norm. Many of these city dwellers must learn to engage with people from all over the world without even leaving their city, let alone their country of birth.

In the intercultural space, people like Hofstede (who incidently was a psychologist) have long said we need to expand the way we take culture into account. Hofstede said that if we view Nature and Nurture as the poles of a continuum, Culture is right smack bang in the middle between them. Culture is the link and middle ground.

If we want to impact a person’s behavior, understanding their cultural context is indispensable. And the more different their context is from our own, the more necessary to be equipped with cultural understanding and tools.

For the DNA of our organizations to become truly global in nature, we need to change the way we think about human interaction - including how we build supporting structures, systems and processes within our organizations.

"Today’s diverse world needs the disruptive innovation of understanding human behavior through culture, just as we have come to understand it through personality."

Why We Need the Cultural Spotlight

In 2018 we can choose from hundreds of psychometric assessments and tests on the personality side. But there is much less from the perspective of culture.

Based on the strong presence of psychology, people often argue that we need only incremental modifications and tweaks in our understanding of culture. They say things like: "We have to learn to understand psychology in the South Korean context, or personalities within the Guatemalan context."

But this does not get us where we need to be in our globalized world. Right at the outset, for example, it still categorizes people based on their nationality.

Nationality and ethnicity can significantly impact the cultural makeup of the people around us, but no one is a stereotype or average of the culture in their passport country. People are a mix of their own personal life experiences and heritage.

Most of us have been or will be exposed to other cultures and subcultures, and for many this exposure has even contributed to our development during younger, formative years.

This cultural mixing will only spread. Over 250 million people currently live and work in different countries from where they were born, and recent studies indicate that over 70% of the current global student population would like to pursue a job in another part of the world.

The only way to stay relevant is to radically expand our understanding of what culture is and how it influences us.

The State of the Field

Psychology applied through psychometric tools helps you understand the way personality drives human behavior at the level of the individual. We believe it is essential to look at culture in the same way.

The dilemma we sit with today is that there are hundreds of psychometric tools but very few 'culturometric' tools. Psychometric tools apply psychology to help you understand the way personality drives the behavior of individuals. We believe it is essential to look at culture in the same way.

KnowledgeWorkx has produced a whitepaper surveying the world of intercultural tools, documenting 47 assessments and tests with a strong cultural focus. What we found is that of those 47 tools, only about 12 are focused to some extent on personal cultural preferences.

That is progress from 16 years ago, when KnowledgeWorkx released the first version of The Three Colors of Worldview and the personal version of The 12 Dimensions of Culture. To our knowledge, there were no other tools for measuring personal cultural preference at that time!

But even in the limited group of tools now available, most still frame the cultural drivers of human behavior within categories of nationality or ethnic group.

Although some value can be found in this, in our experience working with global citizens and transplanted nationals around the world we have found that this is not only often misleading, but can even sometimes be dangerous.

As we explained in our first article on Self-Cultural Analysis, that is why we at KnowledgeWorkx now get to know individuals by assuming every person is a unique cultural being.

How KnowledgeWorkx Turns-On the Intercultural Spotlight

Our tools – The Three Colors of Worldview and the Cultural Mapping Inventory – give you deep cultural insights into human behavior and motivations, designed from the ground up to help you read and understand people’s cultural preferences on a person-by-person basis.

These tools provide intercultural grids and frameworks that are comprehensive but also powerfully simple and easy to remember. We start your journey with rich assessment reports for understanding you and your team specifically, then in the discussion around these reports introduce you to a language and structured way to analyze intercultural dynamics in any setting.

Starting with this understanding of self, we help you go on to develop a variety of approaches to engaging with others. We equip you with quick ways to spot behavioral tendencies at the personal level and show you how to leverage these insights when you engage with others. Our tools form the foundation for a learning journey with KnowledgeWorkx’ suite of resources, helping you develop powerful adaptation strategies.

With over seventeen years practicing this in 60 countries across the world, we have developed a deep set of resources on the cultural side of human behavior. And what’s more, we have found Self-Cultural Analysis to be absolutely fun, practical and powerful to use in illuminating human behavior!

For a more full introduction to The Three Colors of Worldview and the Cultural Mapping Inventory see our previous article on “Self-Cultural Analysis”.

The Two Spotlights in Practice

We love the powerful Everything DiSC suite of products for understanding personality, and these are our go-to resource for turning on the interpersonal spotlight. These are by now the third generation of DiSC and are quite sophisticated. With the recent release of the Everything DiSC Productive Conflict tool we now have 6 different ways of utilizing the Everything DiSC profile.

Turning on both spotlights means having a client complete both an Everything DiSC profile and an assessment like the Cultural Mapping Inventory from our Inter-Cultural Intelligence (ICI) suite of tools. We then sit down and start a conversation around the two reports that is much more meaningful and enriching than only having the cultural conversation or only having the personality psychometric conversation.

In the last two years we have had clients who have combined the use of:

  • ICI with Social Styles

  • ICI with MBTI

  • ICI with OPQ

  • ICI with Leadership Circle Profile

  • ICI with Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team

  • ICI with Strengths Finder

Here are a few success stories:

We have quite a number of Team Coaches (ORSC team coaching) in our network. They often use our Intercultural tools alongside the excellent ORSC coaching tools. Our intercultural tools illuminate challenges and growth areas on teams that otherwise would not have been quantifiable.

Using the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team by Patrick Lencioni has proven to be a powerful way to unlock teams and turn them into High Performing Teams. Over the last two years we have seen how significant it is to 'turn on the intercultural spotlight' in tandem when working on building trust, productive conflict, commitment, accountability and staying focused on team results. We are in the process of releasing an intercultural analysis team report specifically for use alongside the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.

A number of our certified Inter-Cultural Intelligence Practitioners have added value to coaching, leadership and team development journeys by utilizing the Three Colors of Wordview and Cultural Mapping Inventory alongside favorite psychometric tools such as the MBTI, Social Styles, Belbin, and OPQ. This gives them a powerful way to coach Cultural Agility - one of the top four areas that leaders we work with want to grow in.

One of the most sophisticated leadership assessments on the market today is the "Leadership Circle Assessment". It dives deep into the hidden motivators and drivers of leaders, and is a profound way of helping them grow. But using the The Three Colors of Worldview alongside the Leadership Circle Assessment brings everything to a new level by clarifying the primary cultural drivers at play. We have seen that bear fruit especially working with leaders who face intercultural challenges.

Time management discussions in an intercultural team are also greatly enhanced by creating room for the intercultural conversation around time. We use the Wiley Time Mastery tool on the interpersonal side.

Most of our clients have a very intercultural client base. Over time it has become clear that old standardized ways of interfacing with customers are not cutting it anymore, and many have used the intercultural and interpersonal spotlights in combination to successfully realign client engagement.

Have You Turned On Both Spotlights?

Turning on both spotlights is not just fulfilling and rewarding personally, but adds tangible value to your teams, clients and organization. Only by taking culture into account can we make our global and diverse world a place where people can thrive.

If you want to be culturally agile, leverage talent and be quick enough to move with the flow of emerging and contracting global markets; you need to elevate your thinking to a new level.


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