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No. 559, January 22, 2007

A tip on managing through wisdom

Aboriginal decision-making

Aboriginal people have considerable wisdom and practical methods which can be used in the western world today. Here is a method to achieve consensus in decision-making.

In the western world we often solve differences of opinion through a democratic majority vote or through a compromise accepted by all. This means that we focus on how right we are and how wrong our opponent is. It is a part of our decision-making culture.

But these western methods of ours seem rather rigid and fear driven compared with the decision-making processes in many aboriginal cultures.

Some Native Americans use a stick when the village council meets to discuss a challenging issue. The issue may be a life or death matter. This means the right answer is more important than who delivers it.

The stick is in the middle of the circle. The person who wishes to speak takes the stick and speaks his or her heart. Then they put the stick back. Someone else takes the stick and speaks. The person speaking may not criticise others, only share their view on the challenge. Sometimes the stick is still in the middle and there is silence, because no one has anything to say. Then someone sees a new angle of the challenge and takes the stick again. As there is no criticism, no one needs to defend themselves. Therefore it is possible to change one’s viewpoint, even several times, without losing face.

In this process all the experience and different viewpoints of the members of the council will be taken into consideration. Within a shorter or longer time the group will find consensus among everyone rather than a more or less forced compromise.

The process is, of course, simplified by the holistic view that everyone in the discussion wants the best for everyone, because everyone is needed. This is the situation in many work teams. But even where interests differ, decisions will be better with the multitude of points of view brought in by the Native American stick.

Creative regards! Jonas Himmelstrand

© 2007 Strategies to Learn & Grow Newsletter • Printable version

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