Worldprism™profiling tool

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The Introduction

The WorldPrism™ framework of cultural orientations was designed with one objective in mind: Provide our business clients with a simple (but not simplistic) tool for recognizing and adapting to a small, but powerful set of cognitive and behavioral differences found in cross-cultural situations. We wanted to create a model that was intellectually sound while also being highly practical.

We were not trying to create a framework for gathering cultural data per se, but to provide business practitioners with a tool for ‘reading’ the real-time cultural dynamics at work in, for example, cross cultural meetings, presentations, negotiations, teams, and supervisory activities like delegating, coaching and giving feedback.

The challenge for anyone working across cultures is to understand and respect what can be known at the group level (culture is a statistical representational of group norms), while relating to individuals from the group who may or may not conform to the statistical representation.

Rather than businessmen and women going into a cross-cultural situation with a pre-formulated group stereotype or set of generalizations (even those based on statistical data) we wanted them to be able to ‘read’ and relate to complex individuals. Individuals who would undoubtedly be infused with cultural orientations derived from their membership in different groups (e.g., national, regional, organizational, and professional groups), but also personal orientations based on their individual life experiences. No individual is defined by a cognitive or behavioral cultural norm.

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The Intellectual Roots

The model was developed and refined over several years between 1982 and 2000 by Terence Brake, a sociologist and author in the global learning & development field, with over 20 years of experience helping executives to work better across cultures.

The WorldPrism™ model was influenced by Kluckhohn and Strodbeck and their approach of looking at cultures (“world views’) through the lens of value orientations, e.g., Time Sense, Social Relations, Talcott Parsons and his model of pattern variables – contrasting values to which individuals orient themselves in social interactions. Specifically: affectivity – affective neutrality; diffuseness – specificity; particularism – universalism; ascription – achievement; collectivity orientation – self orientation. Edward Hall’s work on culture, particularly his concepts of polychromic and monochromic time, and high and low context cultures.

Based on academic learning and teaching/consulting work, Brake created three dimensions of culture that encapsulated the major differences expressed in the literature/classroom/mini case studies.

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Three cultural dimensions

Relating

Expectations about how we should relate to one another

1. Focus
2. Communication
3. Identity

Regulating

Expectations about how we should manage the world around us

1. Behavior
2. Orientation to Time
3. Orientation to Power

Reasoning

Expectations about how we should think about problems

1. Approach to Problem Solving
2. Focus
3. Orientation to Explanations

WorldPrism™ profile validation

The WorldPrism™ framework and supporting assessment have been independently tested by psychologists and psychometricians to ensure a range of key validation criteria are met. These include:

Face validity – ensuring that the scales and assessments measure what they are meant to measure.
Content validity - this is the extent to which the scale asks about the actual behaviours, attitudes or skills that are to be measured, and does so exclusively (i.e. without bringing in irrelevant factors) and exhaustively (i.e. without leaving out any important aspects of the area being measured).
Criterion validity - the type of validity most often required of assessment related tests like the Worldprism profiler is criterion validity. This is concerned with whether the scale can measure the sort of behaviour we are interested in measuring.

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Read our new series of blogs on taking a CQ perspective on the real-world challenges facing all of us at work.