What other cultures teach us about purpose

According to Dr. Danielle Braun, director of the Academy for Organizational Culture, the search for meaning is as old as humanity: ‘We’ve just lost track of it a little because of the way we live.’

‘In our Western world we spend days behind our screens and it’s still all too often about performance. As a result, we have lost the soul. Now companies and individuals are looking purpose. It’s more than a buzzword.’

Sincere attention

Companies are increasingly exploring how they can deliver a positive impact. Organizations that do this will survive in the future. Because attention to society and people is the new gold, according to Braun.

Braun travels the world to discover what we can learn from the tribes and cultures of Western business. When we talk about mindfulness, we can e.g. learn from the Maori.

“In Maori culture, it is largely about being aware of each other. You can already see that in the way they greet each other, with foreheads and noses pressed together. With this ‘hongi’ they share thoughts and breaths, they express their sincere attention to each other. We could also have more personal and honest conversations in the workplace. really see each other.’

Purpose of the aborigines

When we talk about purpose, we can also look at the Aboriginal people. One of the most important questions for the Aboriginal people for thousands of years has been, ‘For what purpose are you here?’ For example, it is mainly about passing on knowledge to the next generations, and people are tasked with honoring the land they live on.

“In addition, everyone must contribute to building and strengthening their community. By respecting differences and thinking about what these differences contribute to the community. And not by removing all differences or magnifying them in the wrong way’, writes Femke de Vries, managing director of &Samhoud and professor by special appointment at the University of Groningen, in a chronicle for FD.

collective thinking

‘Because of our prosperity, technological inventions and superpower status, we always think that we… under control and be able to control the world. But the idea of ​​malleability does not apply to some things, such as the climate or significant contact with others,’ says Braun.

The African philosophy Ubuntu takes its starting point from the collective and teaches companies that they do not exist because of their position of power, but because they are supported by the community.

They also know this principle from the ancient Silk Road in Iran. The carpet traders who use the term Ta’raof, which is about trust and good relations. “If a trader sells his carpet, it must be good for himself and the customer, but also for his environment and competitors. If one trader has a bad day and the other has a lot of customers, they help each other. Only those with a good and reliable reputation are allowed to trade their carpets in the market.’

Ensure that all employees purpose know

Companies that want to be reminded of their core values ​​and goals should have regular “campfire talks” as far as Braun is concerned. ‘Don’t recite the policy plan, but talk to each employee on a personal level.

Discuss why the company exists and how everyone can contribute. Make sure everyone knows what purpose and that all employees can tell the story of the organisation.’

When entering a new phase as an organization, it is important to consider that transition. ‘Many cultures celebrate rites of passage, which we call ‘Rites-de-Passages’. For example, young people in the Amazon forest have to stick their hand into a fire ant nest to show that they can be a grown man. In Ethiopia you have to jump over a row of cows.’

It is also important for organizations to have moments like these, says Braun. Rituals help prepare employees for the transitions. Businesses are constantly moving and subject to change.

Use the Friday afternoon drink to reflect on certain events. And celebrate a merger with a good wedding party, for example. ‘After such a period of change you need cultural coagulation time and it is important to find regularity again.’

Read more about company culture:

Leave a Comment