From this posting forward, I plan to intermittently share with readers thoughts drawn from a new book that I will publish later this Fall, Brave New Worldview: The Path to Infinite Possibilities in the 21st Century.
How we view the world and try to make sense of it is based on a worldview that was inspired by Newtonian science three centuries ago. However, just like a modern-day car couldn’t be built with the tools, knowledge and skills of an 18th century carriage builder, neither can we solve many of today’s challenges by seeing the world in the linear manner of a Newtonian worldview in which the machine is the dominant metaphor of the technological age in which we live.
On a moment-to-moment basis, the world we know is shaped between our ears – more so than we usually take notice of. It originates in our five senses. Thus it is that the world we experience is largely of our own creation. This is not so strange an idea as one might think.
I argue that we can change the world we experience by changing what goes on between our ears. People who experience a sudden religious conversion or other ideological shift know this well. Often, without any prior indication of imminent conversion, the convert’s worldview undergoes a radical transformation.
So, what is a worldview?
It’s a multifaceted lens though which we view reality in our attempts to make sense of it and strive to solve the challenges it presents us. My worldview includes politically ideological facets. It also has facets through which I view my roles as a husband, father, grandfather a general, all-purpose, wide-angle lens through which I try to bring meaning and coherence to my life. My worldview predisposes what I see and how I interpret it.
Speaking more generally, marketers should have a better understanding of worldviews than is customarily the case. This shortcoming shows up with particular clarity in marketing directed to people who are in the second half of life. Given that they now represent the adult majority this is astonishing. Based on my observations, relatively few marketing professionals understand how a 50-year-old’s worldview is different in predictable ways from that of a 25-year-old.
So what is a worldview?
A worldview is dynamic. It continuously evolves. It is endowed with an ever-increasing population of neuro macros that like a computer macro relieve us of having to figure out every new experience from scratch. Above all, a worldview is a cognitive tool without which nothing would make sense.
Science writer Danah Zohar nicely captures the idea of worldview in calling it “A theme which integrates the sense of self, the sense of self and others, and the sense of how these relate to the wider world – to Nature and other creatures, to the environment as a whole, to the planet, the universe, and ultimately to God – to some overall purpose and direction.”
A worldview reminds me of a patchwork quilt. I grew up with a master quilter in my life: my mother. Quilts are a rich part of my childhood memories. I remember the fullness of comfort they gave me on cold winter nights when Mother turned down the thermostat to save money. “Besides, it’s unhealthy to sleep in a hot room,” she said. To make sure that our bedrooms were not too hot, we had to have a window open a few inches. Mother never reconciled the obvious conflict between her belief about the unhealthiness of sleeping in a hot room in winter and the unavoidably hot bedrooms of summertime in our non-air conditioned house.
Most people today are likely to have grown up sleeping under machine-made quilts, and more recently under quilts made in China, instead of being works of folk art pieced together by their mothers. Quilts made in China don’t come with memories. Mother’s quilts were woven memories of family history. Piles of scraps destined for future quilts were stacked around her quilting room. Many of these scraps were left over from clothes she made for her seven children. As an adult, I came to be amazed by Mother’s skill at piecing together wildly disparate colors and patterns into coherent artifacts of elegantly simple beauty.
As with Mother’s quilts, a worldview is fashioned from bits and pieces of real life. A worldview reflects traits we are born with, our life history and themes, the beliefs and values that we’ve internalized and the culture from which we draw our much of our social identity.
The character and content of a worldview is also influenced by the vessel of nerve tissue in which it takes form: the brain. However, each of the brain’s hemispheres forms a strikingly different version of reality. The right hemisphere beholds reality in holistic terms – like seeing the whole quilt, if you will. The left hemisphere is more atomistic. It only sees pieces of the whole quilt. It has little interest in the whole. It would take no notice of the chromatic complementariness in Mother’s quilts. But this is what transformed diverse scraps of cloth into a unified masterpiece. Indeed, her genius only found expression in the whole, not in the pieces.
NEXT: Sampling of predictable differences in the worldviews between younger and older consumers.
 In quantum physics, a phenomenon known as the observer effect refers to changes in a phenomenon generated merely by observing it: Track an electron with a particle detector and it shows up as a particle; track it with a wave detector and – lo and behold – it appears as a wave. In this respect, the act of observation creates what is observed. This runs directly counter to the Newtonian perspective that everything exists objectively, that is, independently of everything else.
 Danah Zohar, The Quantum Self: Human Nature and Consciousness Defined by the New Physics, Quill/William Morrow, and p. 232.