“In Africa there is a concept known as Ubuntu – the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.” — Nelson Mandela
As an adolescent and then later as a younger man, I wanted to be independent. In fact, I probably did everything possible to be that way.
Now depending upon your cultural upbringing, some of you may be thinking… “well done”, “good job”, “wish more people were like you”, whereas others may be thinking “you were a very selfish person”!
Well whatever your views, I want to let you know that recently I have had a change of heart.
You see I do not think that this is the way to go anymore. In fact, I am sure of it now.
I now believe in the importance of Ubuntu.
“Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term roughly translating to human kindness. It is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally human-ness, and is often translated as humanity towards others, but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity” – Wikipedia
I first came across the term “Ubuntu” from the book written by Bob Nelson and Steven Lundin titled “Ubuntu!: An Inspiring Story About an African Tradition of Teamwork and Collaboration” published in 2010.
If you have not read it, you should, because it may influence you also in how you see relationships and in particular, relationships in business.
In the startup world forming relationships through networks and partnerships are critical, but the concept of Ubuntu takes this even further.
But first, why is that in many workplaces today we often spend time putting people down, instead of building people up? Why do we often avoid the true spirit of collaboration and instead choose to be threatened? Not by our colleague’s acts, but more by our own internal thoughts and feelings. Could it be that competition in the workplace actually leads to some of these more detrimental outcomes?
I believe it does.
Recently I was talking to an old colleague of mine and the conversation got on to LinkedIn and how it can generate a sense of envy or potentially negative perceptions and self-doubt in that you are seeing all these “high achievers” yet at the same time questioning your own abilities.
What if we decide to look at our world through a different set of lenses?
For me Ubuntu describes how we should see relationships in business today. Whether that be collaborating with other businesses, working with our own work colleagues, our own manager, our subordinates or even with our customers and our suppliers, Ubuntu introduces a dimension of relationships that has often been missing. A sense of humanity.
Today the very nature of business, technology and globalisation is enabling new models and news ways of working together. Perhaps now instead of being proud to be independent, we embrace in our hearts the philosophy of Ubuntu.