Pushing and Pulling Organisations to Paradigm Shift using Indigenous Imagery

Dr Kiri Dell, Dr Chellie Spiller & Dr Nimbus Staniland - IIRC20
Thursday, November 19, 2020

In a world facing increasing global challenges such as climate emergency, wildlife extinction, pollution and poverty, most people recognise the dire need for fundamental societal change, yet, we are struggling to respond at a pace required to effect healing transformation. We believe organizational scholarship stands at an important threshold, a doorway which is opening to a new world. We are pressed by urgent calls for drastic paradigmatic changes needed to cope with global issues in order to preserve the integrity of our planet and people. As voices clamour for their version of a post-COVID-19 ‘new normal’, we offer our thoughts on metaphors as signposts to guide us. Indigenous metaphors offer a humanistic, resilient, kind and Earth-nurturing way forward. In this time of uncertainty and adversity, we have the opportunity to pay attention to new signs. In this paper we make a bold attempt to demonstrate how to shift organizational paradigms. Although ‘paradigm shift’ has become an almost banal cliche, used to describe many and any phenomena concerning organizational change and intellectual progress, the dominant images of machines and inanimate beings by which Western management is organized continue to entrench organizational theorizing. Some scholars have called out the field of organizational theory as stagnating.

Through nature-based and humanistic images of economies, Indigenous metaphors may challenge thinking associated with dominant economic images of the self-interested rational individual and the mechanical view of the organization. The images we present in this paper demonstrate alternative organisational forms utilised by Māori businesses to achieve intergenerational commercial, cultural, social and spiritual wellbeing.

The paper offers two contributions: firstly we offer an articulation of Indigenous-Māori images of the organization; and secondly, we demonstrate how Indigenous ontologies and epistemologies, specifically seen here through Indigenous imagery, contribute to shifting the paradigm of management and organizational knowledge and practice in New Zealand. In doing so we address how nations might shift organizational paradigms in order to help tackle challenging problems and achieve healing transformation. We present six Indigenous (Māori) metaphors that bring organizations to life through push and pull effects: Papatūānuku (Nature), Kaitiaki (Stewards), Harakeke (Interwoven Generations), Te Whare Tapa Whā (House of Wellbeing), Waka (Navigators), and Māui (Innovators). This network of harmonious metaphors gives rise to five Indigenous inspired themes: Unification, Stewardship, Holistic Intergenerational Wellbeing, Shapeshifting and Reverence.