Aboriginal ideas shape and influence our collaborative mindset

2078239333_7c1a289551In my neck of the woods (British Columbia, Canada), how we imagine ourselves as a society owes much more than we realize to the Aboriginal people who live here (and have for a very long time), and their ideas. So goes the argument put forth by noted Canadian thinker, John Ralston Saul, in his book A Fair Country – Telling Truths about Canada.

It’s been months since I read his book; yet in the process of maintaining this blog and thinking about collaboration, more and more I’m sensing his argument is largely correct (note: I’m not of Aboriginal stock). From my viewpoint, a collaborative mindset looks a lot like values historically held in high regard in the aboriginal community.

Ways we imagine ourselves as a society largely build on Aboriginal values

Long-held Aboriginal values (identified by Saul) include emphasis on:

  • Balanced relationships
  • Inclusiveness
  • Diversity
  • Complexity
  • Importance of place
  • Restorative justice
  • Holistic solutions

And here are some of the ways we imagine ourselves (and which reflect the Aboriginal influence on our thinking):

  • Egalitarians – we say equal rights for all
  • Multi-cultural we welcome others of different ilk
  • Consensus builders we support (elect!) the middle way
  • Intuitive – we know there is more to life than just technical numbers
  • Conciliatory – we know retribution may do more harm than good

Collaborative principles draw on Aboriginal values

I also think the current societal/business emphasis on collaboration owes much to Aboriginal thinking. Here’s a few collaborative principles that I believe in (and mostly follow!), and that align nicely, I think, with Aboriginal thinking:

  • Systems thinking  i.e., making the connections, and seeing the whole picture
  • Structure influences behaviour using circles as a way for us to connect and relate to each other
  • Balance advocacy and inquiry addressing both our needs and other’s needs
  • Transformation through conversation dialogue leads to change

Of course, I’m just scratching the surface with all this (and leaving plenty of room for future articles on this subject!).

And, how about you? What Aboriginal (or indigenous if you prefer) idea/concept has shaped your approach to collaboration?

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Photo credit: David Paul Olmer

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