What can we learn from indigenous world views?

Photo by Robin Canfield / Unsplash

Somewhere along the historical track, western thinking set itself apart from the natural world, declared itself master, overlord and better than all nature. Some call this human exceptionalism, that idea that human beings are exempt from the natural world.

With this limited and reductionist world view we lose deeper connections to the natural world, we cover over the mysteries, and we create more reductionist and rigid viewpoints from which to see our relationship to each other.

Today, many indigenous societies impart an intelligence and consciousness to the natural world that can be a helpful counterpoint to this constrained way of thinking. Australian aboriginal people sing to the landscapes they walk through, New Zealand's Māori connect with animals, winds, tides and stars in deeply connected and arguably very scientific ways. Native people's the world over have lore and conceptual understandings of events and practices that still aren't grasped by the approaches of Western science.

Indigenous societies continue to believe in the intelligence of the natural world and see all of us as intimately connected to that natural world.

If you're working to build a community or organization that can think differently, consider the opportunity of embracing both Western science and indigenous world views in your work and community.

Co-creating draws from multiples perspectives and can be a way to seek balance and harmony as you work to find new paths forward. Consider looking at how your organization is structured, and try not to limit yourself just to what is expected for organizations like yours.

  • What would it look like to look beyond the rationality of the people in your community?  
  • What would be possible if we were to bring humane wisdom of indigenous peoples together with science?

Much of the forefront of science today in biology and physics requires a more complex and broad perspective. Quantum mechanics, human brains, biochemical pathways and communications systems, these all require a tolerance for mystery working together with Western scientific rigor.

In the teachings and lore of indigenous people worldwide, there is always a sense of awe and wonder about the natural world.

  • How can we emulate this sense of wonder in our own organizational work?
  • Hiking in the wilderness or dancing in the rain connect us to this natural world, how can we connect an organization to the natural world?

The natural world is able to be resilient, to fill niches, to grow and transform and evolve with little command and control and high-level direction.

  • How might our organizations work in a decentralized manner?  
  • What lessons can we learn from the natural world around emergence, resilience, anti-fragility and long-term thinking?
  • How might your organization learn from these indigenous world views that place humans and organizations inside the natural world instead of controlling or dominating the natural world?

We'd love to explore this with you.

Note: We are grateful for the insights the indigenous lenses offer us. We did not create these ideas, and we do not seek to own or control these ideas. Instead, we hope to share, discuss and grow by talking about these ways of viewing the world in community. We aim to avoid exploitation of indigenous world views as "products" or to take ownership over what is not ours. Instead, we hope to bring these concepts into a broader discussion in the same spirit of openness as we were offered them.  

Further Resources

Here at Organizational Mycology, we're working to bring facilitation, and consulting engagements that can help you and your organization navigate these complexities by finding ways to bring forward differing perspectives so that you can co-create a robust and resilient organization.

To get a sample of how we work, and how we think, come along to one of our Oblique Thinking Hours run the second Tuesday/Wednesday (depending on time zone) of every month.

Jonah Duckles

Jonah Duckles

Dunedin, New Zealand