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IDR Institute

Cultural Diversity and Value Reconciliation

Gateways to innovation

Charles Hampden-Turner

Course Description

Cultural diversity is a gateway for us to become far more innovative and creative. Creativity has been defined as connecting two patterns of thought or imagery from very different realms of discourse which no one has combined before and doing this in a way useful to others. If we pick our different patterns from the far ends of the earth or from quite different disciplines then innovation is far more likely.
In this seminar we will look at several different theories of innovation. Innovation is the reconciliation of major dilemmas confronting us. Every theory of innovation posits a bifurcation or two contrasting values that must be reconciled. We will also look at some break-through ideas in business scholarship and argue that all of these were a paradox to which an innovative solution was found, frequently through the use of metaphor. Metaphors are the key to innovations insofar as these reveal the likenesses among unlike characteristics. Hence all metaphors are like and unlike, are generalization that break down, are true and false at the same time and indicate a solution without being the actual solution.
Cultures are depositories of shared metaphor. We will study how cultures transcend their boundaries, how values turn into their opposites. We will turn straight lines into arcs and arcs into circles and learn to think in circles, an insight that changes everything. We will study what happens when seeming opposites fuse, pendulums swing when nouns are rendered as present participles, not Error but erring, not Truth but verifying, not Trust but trusting. We will see quantities dissolve into new qualities. We will use moving images, symbols, puzzle pictures and rotations on a screen to convey this. Live problems will be volunteered by members of the class and we will work together on these.

Target Group

This is a "domain-specific" course intended for people who have completed the basic course Constructivist Foundations of Intercultural Communication (or a direct equivalent) and who have an interest in creativity, innovation, and applications of intercultural thinking to organizations. Internal and external business consultants, teachers and trainers, and advanced interculturalists in general will benefit from this opportunity to work with one of the most sophisticated constructivists in the field.


  • Recognize the limits of rationality in understanding innovation
  • See beyond cultural relativity to the complementarity of cultural metaphor
  • Understand how creativity and innovation depend on reconciliation of apparently oppositional images
  • Explore the social/business implications of value reconciliation
  • Apply course insights to particular issues of interest to participants

Scheduled Courses

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