One thing I’ve learned over the years of participating in indigenous ceremonies and living with and traveling with my Navajo relations and all my associations, is that we cannot truly understand another culture when looking at it through the lens of our own culture. This is a key aspect of culture that I feel most anthropologist miss. Academia is its own culture and when academics “study” indigenous people they are really just assessing another culture through their own value system.
This is also a key disconnect in the drive to shift corporate culture—that we cannot truly understand a new or different organizational culture when assessing it through the lens of our present culture.
Over time, very gradually, by giving myself over to the indigenous teachings, ceremonies, and culture, I began to take on their value system and to adopt a view of the world from the indigenous perspective. Most fortunately, I never lost the ability to look at the world through the eyes of the culture I grew up in and was trained in in the corporate world, and so was able to write Shift, speaking to the business minded while conveying some of what I learned from the indigenous realm.
That said, I intentionally did not set out to write a book or be a person who preaches how I think people should specifically do things from an indigenous perspective, and would not feel comfortable speaking as a mouth piece for indigenous people in that regard. Rather what I have learned from the elders, the medicine people and the ceremonies, is that indigenous culture offers us a different way of being. And it is in this different way of being that our values will shift, and from our values shifting our culture will shift, and then our outward results will shift as well. This truly is the process of culture shift.
I don’t think it is for me to say what an appropriate percentage of profit is or is not, or how specifically we should work together, because those would just be my opinions. Instead I endeavor to show a different way of being, a way of being that celebrates values and engages us in a continual process of deepening our values, and then from this new way of being each individual will find their own path to creating the kind of work or project or company they wish based on their deepening values.
The over arching message from the indigenous wisdoms is that we exist in reciprocity with all life, human and non-human, and that the Earth herself is a living thing, and that we are living in reciprocity with all of this. It’s like raising teenagers who start to buck when we begin to place increasing responsibilities on them. We as a society are bucking this responsibility to steward the health of the Earth. Modern prevailing corporate culture is in its adolescence, in the sense that it says we should be able to continue doing what we are doing and merely focus on profit (which is an inward focus much like a teenager who doesn’t want to clean up after themselves). A more mature corporate culture would say that our businesses are extensions of the people who comprise them, and that they are human make ups in which we need to care for one another (which is an outward focus more like a wise adult or an elder).
What stewarding the environment or taking care of people looks like can be many things to many people. The work I am most interested in doing is catalyzing a shift in thinking and being so that we may collectively see ourselves as interdependent with one another and the environment. With that shift in thinking and being, the methods, tactics and strategies will evolve naturally.