Cross-paradigm confusions

These are different ways of thinking. Different ways of working, different preoccupations, different value systems, different inputs and outcomes. Different communities of practice. Different CULTURES.

So it is no surprise to find that there are cross-cultural communication challenges.

I think of two great cross-cultural challenges I have lived through:

a) New Guinea, 1960’s

A Papuan native hired as a house servant fresh from the bush is asked to wash the car with the hose. He does so. Inside as well as out. Another is asked to pluck the chicken and put it in the fridge. The chicken is found naked and shivering in the fridge.

b) Anywhere, 1970’s

A woman with a new computer attempts to use the mouse as a foot pedal. A man rings service demanding to know where the “ANY’ key is.

These are not examples of stupidity or ill will. They are paradigm collisions. These happen in conversations between designers and traditional scientific management.

1. I went to a meeting of a product development group, who expressed interest in what design could offer, but said I was there a bit to soon. They didn’t have a product yet, but when they did, they were sure I could help with the colours and fonts in the marketing materials.

In this world, what else could design offer but ornamentation of the inferential extensions of what we already know?

1. Don’t try and push a Design Thinker for certainty of outcome!

2. And expect Scientific Thinkers to be bemused at times by questions about intent:

I think this could become a party game for rapprochement between the two traditions!

It is doubly unfortunate when some of these miscarriages are overlayed with disrespect for the other tradition, or for its practitioners. But often they are genuine enough mis-placements when viewed within the “opposite” tradition.


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