A couple of weeks ago I travelled to New Zealand and had the opportunity to meet with a Maori Elder there. He was introducing Maori leadership principles in an MBA program. We discussed some of the inherent aspects of Indigenous cultures around the world which I found very interesting. He explained, that all Indigenous cultures globally have a number of aspects in common, these are:
1) A deep connection to the Earth and the sense of being custodians of the planet as it provides for and sustains all life forms. Hence, this makes the concept of land ownership quite difficult to grasp for many indigenous people.
2) A sense of lineage and connection with their ancestors that have lived before them and an attitude of appreciation towards them. There is a rich oral lore and storytelling which explains the culture and history of the group which is passed down the generations.
3) A connection with the gods and various spirits and the acknowledgment of forces that exist beyond the physical realm. This provides a connection with appreciation of spirituality and higher unseen forces.
It reinforced for me the importance of appreciating that there are many different world views and paradigms. The conversation reminded me how crucial it is to examine our basic assumptions when working across cultures. Our mental models dictate how we view the world and establishing a shared or common view will help enhance the interaction. It made me reflect on a situation that I was in a few years ago in the Northern territory working with an Indigenous group and how I would have done things differently had I been more knowledgeable about the Indigenous worldview. Learning is an ongoing journey!