Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Contextual Intelligence and Misunderstandings

Nearly every opinion of culture, especially a foreign culture is influenced by our understanding of right and wrong. Tarun Khanna's article on contextual intelligence in the September 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review talks about the implications of applying Western business understandings to other cultures.

The Aristotelian view of human activity classifies it into three distinct components. Nearly all our misunderstandings of culture arise from confusing these categories, especially virtue (an application) confused with universal principles (an overarching truth). I made this illustration to highlight this fact:

And so, our desire for truth, a universal principle, could mean 'telling the truth' at all times in a society like the United States, but something different, say in Nazi Germany, where people like Oscar Schindler likely needed to conceal their activities to accomplish what was right. When we conflate virtue and universal principles mistakenly, we often get an impoverished version of reality.

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