A disruptive world, trust, and can we learn from native American wisdom?

The world is facing significant disruption and increasingly urgent global challenges affecting individuals, families, organizations, governments, and society.

This VUCA-driven (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) age of disruption brings new complexities, opportunities, as well as risks for businesses. The potential for crises has intensified, driven by rapid technological change due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) and amplified by societal expectations linked to environmental, social and governance (ESG) phenomena.

Throughout the COVID-19 response, we’ve seen an acceleration of these trends. We have seen how some businesses have been successful in looking beyond the pandemic and into recovery, while others have failed and many perished, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

As the world becomes more complex and connected, the threat of a corporate crisis grows.

Disruptive events, including crises such as pandemics, have no borders or boundaries. They can happen anytime, anywhere, and to any organization. The interconnectedness of the global economy and its political realities can magnify the ripple effect of any single crisis, making it a common feature of corporate life.

The new business reality is that there will be several challenges concerning the new world of work that organizations are expected to face as we enter the ‘new normal’ or ‘next normal’ era of the endemic phase of COVID-19. Just as organizations across the globe went fully remote at the start of the pandemic, many organizations now need to build a successful hybrid work model—or risk losing their employees.

A functioning society is built on trust. Whether we’re drinking water from a faucet, riding an elevator or sending an e-mail, we’re trusting that somebody, somewhere, has taken the necessary steps to make sure that activity is safe.

Yet today, our shared foundation of trust is under strain as never before. Rapid social and economic change, deepening political divisions, and the disruptive impact of new technologies are stretching the limits of traditional systems of trust-building. Governments, businesses and civil society are struggling to keep up.

Our changing digital age has made it harder and harder to know just whom to trust. Is the person or company you’re dealing with real or just an online facade? Is the video you’re looking at genuine or a deepfake? Where exactly does your data go when you share it? There’s no way to fact-check everything, creating anxiety. If people can only trust what they’ve seen and touched, or people they’ve met personally, society can’t function. The system is under strain and we can no longer take trust and trust-building for granted.

Trust is both a glue and a lubricant, holding society together and allowing its many parts to move smoothly. If trust can’t be made suitable for the digital age, the digital age won’t function.

Such mindset shifts will not happen just once – they will evolve with society’s needs. That is at the heart of the trust and governance project: constantly finding new ways to maximize the reach and power of trust across different stakeholders.

It’s an effort that has to be horizontal and cross-sectoral. In a new age, there is no single guarantor of trust. It’s a responsibility all stakeholders must share and prioritize.

There are wonderful opportunities to learn from other cultures how to manage our emotional turmoil and stop the self-blame and the wild goose chase. When we look at other cultures through a wide lens, it empowers us with new insights and strategies that have enabled others to remain resilient and satisfied.

Native Americans, for example, have lived in synchrony with the human and natural world. Their experiences help teach how to find strength, peace and emotional wellness.

They have encountered vast and devastating experiential upheavals in the confrontation with Western values and practices. Yet, many have sustainable belief systems and cultural traditions that have been passed down through generations and serve as models that we can consider in order to improve our own well-being.

The overarching descriptive word for the American Indian worldview is holistic. They view the natural world, the spirit world and human beings as an integrated whole and they cherish balance and harmony in the collective universe.

Some of the richest stories we are not taught in our educational system are those of Native Americans. I recently read a great book by DJ Vanas called ‘The Warrior Within’ – the book discusses your own your power to serve, fight, protect and heal, providing a compass to live an extraordinary life (I have always said we are extraordinary, the question is how we use extraordinary in our everyday lives).

In native American culture, a warrior may surrender, but he never gives up.

June 25, 1876: General Custer during the Battle of Little Big Horn between the US Army and the Sioux Indians, commanded by Chief Crazy Horse. Custer had underestimated the size of the camp and his entire column was killed.

During a raging blizzard in early January 1877 along the Tong River in Montana, General Miles and his troops opened fire on Crazy Horse and his camp. He was able to return fire, but they eventually held off the soldiers firing ammunition with bows and arrows. Although he succeeded in retreating 1,100 Indians to Fort Robinson, he never gave up or lacked effort – but eventually surrendered because his tribe was cold and hungry – and it was the best option to avoid all being pursued .

Tecumseh, the great Shawnee chief and warrior said: “When you get up in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of life.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies with you.” In this moral, Tecumseh speaks to our ability to see the prize first.

The Ottawa tribe used birch bark for dwellings and canoes which made them successful in trade and warfare. The Lakota used every part of the buffalo to make everything from clothing to bowstrings and chairs. Oftentimes, when we have limitations, it forces us to be resourceful. When we get past our fear, resistance, and confusion, we realize that we are all surrounded by an embarrassment of riches.

In Native American culture, the medicine bag is filled with sacred, meaningful objects, such as herbs, tobacco and cedar, beads, bones, arrowheads, stones, and animal claws or teeth—that hold the power of protection, strength, luck, or healing for the person who wears it. People often wore them around their necks and they became significant during ceremonies, battles or illnesses.

It helps you visualize how the Indians carry their own medicine bag of things and experiences that make you unique and strong in your own way.

In the early 1800s, Sequoyah of the Cherokee Nation had a vision of his people reading and writing — or what he would call “talking leaves.” They didn’t have a system back then and people thought he was crazy to invest all this time to develop it. So much so that his wife threw his project into the fire. He was undeterred, and by the 1830s he had developed a writing system that helped his tribe become one of the most literate groups in the Americas.

The plains tribes had a tradition of fighting that was more honorable than killing an enemy on the battlefield. It was called a “census coup”. Instead of striking their enemy with an arrow, they would simply touch him with a coup staff, a decorated staff resembling a horse, while in the heat of battle. That act of courage to stand face to face with the enemy and essentially say, “I’m not afraid of you.” is the ultimate act of bravery.

One of the best lessons from the book was the one about keeping fire in Native American culture, which was clearly a sacred duty. A good fire was the heart of a village. It provides an opportunity to cook food, shine a light in the dark, warm the village and provide a place for people to gather. Most importantly, it was a crucial component of the ceremonies. Just like the keeper of the fire – we must maintain our own physical and mental well-being so that our fire does not burn to embers or even burn out.

Most people who do not speak up in public meetings have perfectly functioning voices, and training them on better enunciation will not help matters much. Many technology projects have been hampered by inadequate theorizing, by political economy and social movement analysis, and by the lack of reference to historical evidence. And while clear and imaginative thinking is universally valuable, by necessity this analysis needs to be contextual. In particular, we need to be particularly cautious about transferring the successful use of technology from one place and time to another.

Napoleon Hill once said “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

However, transparent communication can open new doors for us to access a more extensive level of information in our lives. When we let go of our individual focus, we are able to experience the dynamics of life to a much greater extent. This allows us to move beyond the interpretation (understanding) of humans as objects in the physical world and thus experience humans from within.

If we recognise that rather than meeting people, we encounter realities in which these people emerge, based on what they believe and defend, we develop a deeper compassion and understanding. We are aware that in this world we all wear a false smile.

Once we begin to comprehend the inner experiences of others, and to create through our being, we make a quantum leap in our communication. We lift communication up to the next level of evolution. This helps us to acknowledge the true cause of many conflicts, looking beyond the symptoms to the root of the problem.

Have we created a separated culture in society, where we disguise the truth and transparency for what people would prefer to hear across technology?

Cultures also differ in how much they encourage individuality and uniqueness vs. conformity and interdependence. Individualistic cultures stress self-reliance, decision-making based on individual needs, and the right to a private life.

Having a defined place within a family, a community and a culture enhances a sense of purpose, stability and resilience over time. In AI culture, roles are clearly defined and egalitarian.

Men and women exist in a cooperative partnership, elders are respected for their wisdom, children are raised to honour adults and to be part of the community as well as the family.

I was discussing with friends recently the morals around an Indian tipi. For more than 400 years, knowledgeable people have agreed that the Indian tipi is absolutely the finest of all moveable shelters. To the Native peoples whose concept of life and religion was deeper and infinitely more unified than his conqueror, the tipi was much more. Both home and church the tipi was a Sacred Being and sharing with family, nature and Creator. The tipi allowed the Plains Indians to move entire villages to suit the seasons and to be nearer to a good supply of food, wood & fresh supply for their horses.

The Cree people use 15 poles to make the structure of the tipi. For every pole in that tipi, there is a teaching. So there are 15 teachings that hold up the tipi. The poles also teach us that no matter what version of the Great Spirit we believe in, we still go to the same Creator from those many directions and belief systems; we just have different journeys to get there.

And where the poles come out together at the top, it’s like they’re creating a nest. And they also resemble a bird with its wings up when it comes to land, and that’s another teaching: the spirit coming to land, holding its wings up.

A full set of Tipi poles, represent: obedience, respect, humility, happiness, love, faith, kinship, cleanliness, thankfulness, sharing, strength, good child rearing, hope, ultimate protection, control flaps.

The tipi teaches us that we are all connected by relationship and that we depend on each other. Having respect for and understanding this connection creates and controls harmony and balance in the circle of life. For every time that a pole is added, a rope goes around to bind that pole into place. You have to be there and see it to appreciate that teaching. That rope is a sacred bond, binding all the teachings together until they are all connected.

So do we have much to learn from the Native American Indians about trust, integrity, humility, and human 2 human communication?

In summary, transparent communication is a way of life in which different levels of consciousness, as well as different levels of development and intelligence, are included. It requires of us that we engage in an experientially oriented exploration of life.

Only then will we truly learn to comprehend the world as a form of exchange in which we share a common space of interaction and learn to recognise the cosmic addresses of conscious content.

A great quote by Stephen R Covey sums up this article when he stated:

“If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust towards me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to. I can even make mistakes and that trust level, that emotional reserve, will compensate for it. My communication may not be clear, but you’ll get my meaning anyway. You won’t make me ‘an offender for a word’. When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”