Cultural sensitivity and risk intelligence

November 10, 2023


Further information


Nippin  00:01

So I’ll start with a story actually, my my father in law, when my daughter was born, he came to the to the UK. He comes from India, and so do we. And so the baby was just born. And you know, it was just maybe the next day we brought the babies from the hospital to home and, and one of our neighbours, he dropped a small little present outside the door. And he didn’t knock or he didn’t ring the bell. And he just left it there. And I opened the door, I brought the present in and my father in law saw it and he said, What’s that? I said, My neighbour, he’s just left a president. And I was expecting he would say, Oh, that’s very kind of I mean, he’s, you know, he, he was, and what he said actually shocked me in the first and so he said, How ridiculous is that, that somebody will just leave a gift outside. And it’s impolite. He said, he said, Just come inside, they should sit with us, and you should have a cup of coffee, and it should congratulate the parents. At that point, I said to him, it doesn’t work like that in the UK. You know, they respect your privacy, they respect your your your first experience as a parent. And it’s a different way of looking at life. But you know, the mistake I made was exactly what most people do, which is to go into telling mode that you should know better, that this is the culture here. And if I look back, I think that’s the crux of the problem. Welcome to another episode of embracing differences with me, Lebanon, a podcast aimed at engaging with different viewpoints and perspectives about how we as human beings learn, unlearn, recognise risk, tackle risk, and become culturally sensitive. Talking of which, we have a tweet his workshop coming up in London, from the 21st to 23rd of February, on culture and risk intelligence. If you’re wondering, what is the connection between culture and risk intelligence? My answer is this. How can we recognise risk in our everyday life? By stepping into another culture? How much do we tend to normalise and zoom? As we go about making sense of the world around us? Until we meet someone from another culture? Who sees things completely different to us? In those moments? What do we do? Do we judge them? Do we control them? Do we evaluate their culture, their rituals, habits, language, behaviours, ethics and narratives? From our point of view? Or do we genuinely make an attempt to understand their culture, from their own point of view, that takes confronting our own assumptions and expanding our worldview. And that is what makes us culturally sensitive and risk intelligent. If you want to hear more, you can go on our website, novellus.solutions/events. And you will find all the details on the main page including a detailed brochure of what we will cover in this workshop.


Nippin  03:09

Good morning. Good morning. Look at this,


Pedro Ferreira  03:13

we placed with this background of Croatia


Nippin  03:18

region Rijeka. Yeah, one of the oldest sports in the world.


Pedro Ferreira  03:25

And we had very, very little chance of going around the city. But the thing that I found interesting about the city is you even if you haven’t seen the sea and and knowing that this is such an old port, you go around the city and you feel that this is a city about the port in the sea. And you cannot go through that and not understand the importance of culture. And I used to be one of those amongst perhaps the majority of people who have become disappointed by the idea of culture that it has become about everything and nothing at all. It has been so misused and abused that we we’ve come to think that it’s not a worthwhile idea or a concept to build on. But recently as I become immersed in in sport sport has changed so much my idea of culture and and we’ve done quite a bit of work lately on on the relation between culture and risk intelligence are becoming understanding risk differently. So maybe it’s So it’s perhaps a good place to start in how what what? What can we tell? What can we say about the importance? Why is culture important for risk intelligent? To become risk intelligent?


Nippin  05:14

Yeah. So the question is, why is cultural sensitivity or understanding of culture is so important for risk intelligence? Pedro, I think we could have a very detailed conversation on this. But I think it’s, it’s a very simple point that in, first of all, let’s try and understand what is culture, cultural sensitivity, and what is risk intelligence, and then we can take it from there. And I think the point is simple that, that, in order to understand somebody else, you have to look at things from their point of view. And if you can develop that availability to observe and listen, which is to see and hear from another person’s perspective, I think it’s a long way to come to improve your risk maturity or risk intelligence. And essentially, risk intelligence is the idea that, before you make a decision, can you hold yourself for a little bit of time for you hold that doubt in your mind for a little bit of time, before you make a decision, because a lot of decisions go badly, because we, the way we react, we don’t take the time to think and reflect before we act and hence things go terribly wrong. You know, I’ve had so many situations where people relationships are destroyed. And you see both sides, and you wonder if only they took a few minutes to reflect before they reacted to that moment. So I, I started a story actually, my my father in law, when my daughter was born, he came to the to the UK. He comes from India, and so do we. And so the baby was just born. And you know, it was just maybe the next day we brought the baby from the hospital to home and, and one of our neighbours, he dropped a small little present outside the door. And he didn’t knock or he didn’t ring the bell. And he just left it there. And I opened the door, I brought the present in and my father in law saw it and he said, What’s that I said, My neighbour, he’s just left a present. And I was expecting he would say, Oh, that’s very kind of when he’s, you know, he, he was, and what he said actually shocked me in the first and so he said, How ridiculous is that, that somebody will just leave a gift outside? Right? Simple. It said, he said, Just come inside, they should sit with us, and you should have a cup of coffee, and he should congratulate the parents. And at that point, I said to him, it doesn’t work like that in the UK, you know, the respect your privacy, the respect your your your first experience as a parent. And it’s a different way of looking at life. But you know, the mistake I made was exactly what most people do, which is to go into telling mode that you should know better, that this is the culture here. And if I look back, I think that’s the crux of the problem. And the repercussions of telling him rather than listening to him and trying to help him realise that that’s his world and not other people’s world is that he went around spreading the story for the next 10 years of his life. To say that, you know, I went to my daughter is 11 now it’s been 11 years. And every time we speak to him, every time he speaks to his friends and relatives, he says it’s ridiculous culture out there, you know, kids are babies are born and people just left leave stuff outside the door. So he clearly hasn’t come to terms with that worldview. And I use the word word worldview because in his worldview, in his in his understanding in his in his that, that that you cannot do that. That’s considered impolite. And when he sees another worldview is left shocked completely. And in that moment, if you try to tell him that no, no, no, it doesn’t work like this here. You are doing exactly what we do when we issue non conformance on board a ship or an asset whatsoever that we instead of listening to people will tell them that you shouldn’t be doing this. This is not in accordance with my worldview. And it’s not in accordance with my contextualised processes because contextualised processes is your way of looking at something. So, I think that’s very, very problematic. If instead we took a little bit of time to appreciate that person’s worldview, which consists of their metaphors, which consists of their models. They and methods of how they arrive at a particular truth, we will learn so much about that person. And I think, just to build on that little bit that every worldview is coherent. My father’s worldview is very coherent. The Western worldview about leaving presents outside and not not in infringing upon somebody’s privacy is also very coherent. It’s just two different ways of seeing the world. And so, when we talk about a coherent worldview, what we mean by that is that there is there is a method, there is a methodology, there is an ethic, which is what is considered morally right and wrong, there is a there is a choice of certain words, for example, in this case, previous previously individualised individualism, respect for the neighbour and so on. And then there is another worldview, which comprises of a very different metaphor, for example, social relationships, celebrations, and get togethers. So they’re very coherent worldviews in their own. The trouble is, when we, when we don’t take the time to appreciate another person’s worldview. And that’s where the problem happens. And if we did that, if we did try that, we will experience a little bit of dissonance, discomfort. And that discomfort creates doubt in our mind. That doubt, makes us question our assumptions, our metaphors, our models, our methods, and so on. And something amazing happens when we question our models and methods, that we learn something, what are the gaps in our assumptions? What assumptions are we making? Where are the gaps in our worldview? And that, I think is what connects cultural sensitivity to risk intelligence that before we make a decision, we question ourselves, because we have seen something that is not coherent, or that is not aligned with our worldview. And that is what makes us risk intelligent. Yes,


Pedro Ferreira  12:19

yes. Yes. I think that that’s very, very clear. There’s one thing that you touched upon which I think most people will be tempted to, to dismiss no matter how clear that was, they would dismiss it entirely on we still very much attached to this idea of the yes, okay, there are different worldviews, there are different perspectives. But then there are the perspectives, but then there’s the rule. And the rule is objective, and there’s in the rule and outside the rule. So it seems very hard to obstruct yourself or to abandon this black and white worldview, which is just a worldview. It’s not objective objectivity in any way. How can we help this demystify this, this idea that there’s there’s a right and wrong, regardless of worldviews?


Nippin  13:25

Yeah, if I understand your question correctly, what you’re referring to is that, you know, granted that there are perceptions and there are no objective realities. At some stage, somebody will question the fact that, you know, there is an objective truth. And you can’t deny that, because you have facts, you have evidences to prove that. Am I right in assuming


Pedro Ferreira  13:46

Yeah. And were you the example you gave us that someone goes out on the ship and issues a nonconformity? That’s right. Yes. Yes. Doesn’t take one second to listen to the perspective of the crew. And if if they did that would entirely change that in, they would eventually, perhaps, I assume, end up realising that from their perspective, that that is pursuing the abidance of that rule. So how, I


Nippin  14:23

will I will answer this question a little bit differently. And I answered these questions based on my understanding of, let’s say, Indian mythology, Greek mythology, and, and, and the the Roman mythology. And one of the things I was reading just a couple of days ago, Pedra was that was this that there was an Indian God? No, that was it’s not we don’t believe in was and and the history when it comes to God. God is with us all the time in the Hindu mythology, but that’s mythology. So in the mythology, Lord Rama goes to the jungle And with his, with his tutor with his mentor, Vikram Acharya. And they see a demon got a woman demon, and her name is Hidimba. And his his tutor has mentored us same to kill her. And he says, I cannot do that because the rules in accordance with the rules you cannot, you know, raise your raise, raise a weapon on on a woman. And at which point, his tutor reminds him that if the woman is evil, and she is creating a lot of problems in the world, then it is your duty to do that. At which point he realises, yes, he has to do that. And he takes the bow and the arrow and he kills that this this woman Hidimba. And the point is this, you know, it’s mythology, of course, it’s all mentality. But the point is this that there comes a time in life, when you have to contextualise the rules, you have to put rules in perspective, there are many, many rules. And we will pick and choose things that that would align with our agenda. So if you are an inspector, and if you go on board a ship and you see something that you don’t like, that you that you disagree with completely. And you disagree with that, because it does not confirm with your worldview, you will not think twice to back it up with rules and processes and issue of non compliance. But if you look at it from another person’s point of view, you might realise that they will also have some rules and processes from their own understanding, which gives them the this this this coherent worldview about why they should be doing something. And I think understanding that is so powerful, because it helps you understand that there is no such thing like rules and processes in a way in the wild in the jungle, and everything else has to be applied in a particular context. So if you took the time to understand their world, which is when I’m repeating myself, now, you will come to know that the limits of your model, and as I said to you before every worldview is consistent, is absolutely consistent. Because there are rules, there are processes, there are some constraints to back it up until you enter into another worldview. And you realise that there are rules and processes and methods and models to back it up as well. And I’m not suggesting one is better than the other. But I think if you’re a person in position of power and authority, like an inspector, like a senior leader, like a manager, and you’re frustrated that things are not working as they would like them to, then I think it is important to from time to time to take stock of your own worldview. And the only way you can enter it’s very hard thing to take stock of your worldview. Because that’s how you see the world. The only way you can do it, is by going into stepping into somebody else’s worldview and saying, Wow, I never saw an apple, like a fruit. I always felt an apple was a technology until you go into somebody else else’s world and you realise Oh, my goodness, I never thought Apple could also be something else. And something else and something else. Yeah. And this to just to finish it off. I think one of the things that is very important here to say is that we are not searching. If you are a person who wants to learn, and he wants to become risk intelligent, then we’re not searching for that objective truth at some stage. What we are doing here is that we are trying to appreciate the different, if you like, figments of reality, the Dyckman fragments of reality, as somebody said to me a few days ago, segments of the beautiful bird, what and each piece, either challenges or reconfirms what we already know. But what we are moving towards is this idea of getting to understand the limits of our worldview, getting to understand the limits of our knowledge, which I call wisdom. And what wisdom does to you is that if you stay in that zone, is that you come to a point where you get a lot more clarity about what is the real issue here, what is the real problem here? And you can get to a stage in this journey where you can start to name


Pedro Ferreira  19:28

the problem, which takes us right back to risk,


Nippin  19:31

which is absolutely so you know, Titans, for example, did not have a concept for grief for a very, very long time until the anthropologist Ben levy went there. And he thought that, you know, these are Titans and every time somebody dies, they’re having they’re falling sick. They feel disgusted. They go through so much, but they don’t know they don’t have a word for grief. And until the the term for grief was coined until they identified the problem that this is this, they’re suffering from a real issue here, they don’t have a word. And hence they don’t have a ritual to deal with uncertainty. And I think what I’m trying to say is that the more you people like Ben Levy, and US leaders stay in that grey zone and try to engage with different perspectives, different realities. At one stage, you start to name the problem. And naming the problem is the beginning of all this because once you have named the problems like Tahitian came to understand the idea of grief you have, what you’re left with then is okay, now I can appreciate the problem, how can I mindfully tackle the problem, you will never solve any problem, you know, that’s wishful thinking. But you can mindfully tackle the problem. If you have an organisation with limited resources, at the end of the day, you know, that you’re sad to sitting on firm grounds. And you know, this, this whole idea of reacting to a problem very quickly, you know, this is not my worldview, this is rubbish. This does not align with my understanding, this is non compliance. And you spend endless amount of time putting your energy, you know, undermining your relationship with the other person, because there’s no way they will align with your world, they have a different way of seeing the world. And you have to make an attempt, if you want to, you know, connect the the gap between the two. So the onus lies on you at the end of it. Yeah. Because you have the power, you have the power. Yeah.


Pedro Ferreira  21:30

Thank you. I think we’ve we’ve included quite a lot.


Nippin  21:35

Yeah, I mean, if you go back to the idea of, you know, it’s very simple, actually, cultural sensitivity for risk intelligence, I think that the point is very simple. And you can make it as complicated as you like that. At the end of the day. If you want to understand something, you have to submit control, and you have to listen. And it’s very hard. But if you embark on this journey, it’s very fruitful in the last series.


Pedro Ferreira  22:02

And this is certainly for another different talk. I think we have enough, but it takes us down to the the idea that you cannot listen, or appreciate the different perspective for the different worldview, unless you allow yourself to experience it.


Nippin  22:24

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And that is


Pedro Ferreira  22:27

such a big step. And that, I think, this is why it becomes such a difficult path for most people to go. Okay, can


Nippin  22:35

I can I just briefly say something here. I was at a Quaker meeting, two weeks ago, Quakers meeting in Aberdeen, and you know, Quakers are very unique in many ways. And what is interesting about a Quaker meeting, I experienced it for the first time. I read a lot of book on Quakers, but I just wanted to experience it. And I went to that meeting, and I just sat there. As soon as I entered the room, they said, Do you know the Quaker rules? I said, No, I said, you just go and sit, you don’t speak, you just sit in silence for an hour. If anyone has a strong urge to speak, they will speak. So you, you just you just observe the silence. That’s that’s what we do in the meeting. And, you know, I went and sat in the meeting. And I saw that for about 20 to 30 minutes, it was complete silence in the room complete silence, nobody would speak until somebody would get up, they will say a few words. And the interesting thing is, people will just observe, they will not utter a word, they will not judge, they will not say and then after there will be another 10 or 15 minutes of silence and somebody will get up and then say something, no judging, no building upon no arguing to say that my point is better than yours. Wonderful, wonderful experience Pedro. And, and then at the end of it, they asked me if you can join to for a coffee and I did it was wonderful. But what was interesting was that as I was leaving the meeting, somebody asked me so what do you do? I said, I’m an anthropologist, and I study culture. And she said, So how do you study culture? I said exactly the way I wanted, I just wanted to come and experience this. I read a lot of books on, on on on Quaker culture. I wanted to come and just feel it now. Because all learning is in the feeling. So at which point you said, you know, that’s very interesting, because we had a person who was studying theology, and he came here and he asked a lot of questions from us. And I thought, at one stage, she said, it was very funny, she said, I thought his head was small, swollen by the time he left. And she was so clever. She was so wise in many ways, because she realises that this brain centric learning, which is all about taking more information from people misses the point that people don’t learn from more information people learn too Experience, there’s something happening in that room, there is a lot happening in that room that needs to be felt. You have to feel it. Because through that feeling, it will become part of the body. And when it becomes part of the body, this is when people experience a shift in their perspective and shift in their worldview. And that shift in the worldview is what is the ideal ground for learning, you know? Great educationalists like Ken Robinson, guy. Claxton, there’s so many of them have made this point that Peter Singer, Peter Singer, have made the point that learning has to be felt and experience. And to answer your question, yeah, I think you’re absolutely right, that brain centric information base regurgitation, somebody says something and he just warm it out, pass the test, should get a certificate is not learning, learning has to be felt. Yes.


Pedro Ferreira  25:56

And that that just takes you further and further away of having standing any chance of understanding the different worldview, the different perspective and hence, take you even further away from risk intelligence or risk maturity.


Nippin  26:12

And, you know, but but there is a danger to that, because what happened in the case of my father in law was, he felt something unusual, but he could not rationalise it, he could not give that feeling a name. So he felt something you know, these didn’t read a book on the Western culture, he felt it. He could not make an attempt, you did not slow down to rationalise it, he bank went back to his own worldview reinforced it even more. For the last 11 years, he’s been telling this story that this is this is nonsense. And this is the problem. You see, when you feel something and you feel it’s awkward. And if you don’t take the time to reflect on it, you will just keep reinforcing what you already know for the rest of your life. And that’s dissonance. That’s cognitive dissonance. But if you like, like, you know, which is


Pedro Ferreira  27:00

exactly what happens when you’re confronted with an inspector that issues a nonconformity. That’s


Nippin  27:06

right, it’s yes. And it leaves both sides. More better. Yep, more hurt for more hurtful, and it creates increases the gap between the two sides. And hence, what you get at the end of it is two, rather than one culture, you get subcultures, and those subcultures keep colliding. And the funny bit is, we think that we can solve all this through processes and structures. Yeah. Wishful thinking, yeah. You need to bring it back to relationships, trust, asking open questions, surrendering control, listening, observing the world from another person’s point of view. So I think that’s where we started. Yes,


Pedro Ferreira  27:48

yes. I think we close the loop magnificently. Thank you.


Nippin  27:53

There’s one thing you’d like to not. It’s good. Good fun.



Yeah. Yes. Thank you.


Nippin  27:58

Thank you, Miss. Do you have any questions, any feedback, any comments, any criticism, you can always write to us? You can write to me personally, at support@novellus.solutions. You can also leave a message for us on our website novellus.solutions. You can email me personally at Nippin.Anand@novellus.solutions and you can find me on LinkedIn. Until then, have a good day.