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The word 'Ubuntu' comes from the Bantu language of Africa and is pronounced as uu-Boon-too. It is a conventional African philosophy that offers us an understanding of ourselves in connection with the world. As per Ubuntu, there exists a mutual bond between every one of us. It is through our interaction with fellow beings that we get to know our own particular human characteristics. This comes from a Zulu saying, "Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu", meaning that we can come close to our humanity only when we acknowledge that of others.

Here, is a perfect example of Ubuntu through a story from Africa.

An anthropologist was studying the behaviors and traditions of an African tribe. He used to get surrounded by kids on a daily basis, so he decided to play a game with them. He managed to get sweets from the closest village and after putting everything in a basket at the foot of a tree, he called the kids and briefed them about the game.

At the point when the anthropologist said "now", the kids needed to race to the tree and the first to reach could have all the sweets to him/herself. So the kids all lined up in a row, waiting for the signal. At the point when he said "now", all of the kids took each other by the hand and ran together towards the tree. They all touched the tree somewhat simultaneously, distributed the treat, sat down and started to munch away joyfully. The anthropologist headed towards them and asked them as to why they had all run together when any of them could have had the treat all for him/ her. The children reacted: "Ubuntu; How could any of us be happy if all the others were sad?"

Ubuntu is a philosophy of African clans that can be summed up as "I am what I am a direct result of who we as a whole are."

Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial had said, -

"There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.”

Based on this teaching, in many regions of Africa, whenever somebody does anything wrong, he is taken to the center of the village and surrounded by his tribe for two days while they fill his ears with all the good things he has ever done. They believe that each of us is a good person, yet we sometimes make mistakes, which really is just a cry for help. The whole tribe then, unites in this ritual and tries to make him realize of his true nature. Their idea stands on the belief that unity and affirmation has more power to bring about a better change for that person than punishment and shame. This creates a golden thread of kindness that connects all life from the lowest being to the highest. This golden thread can be understood as being love, that is, Ubuntu.

The Ubuntu philosophy has a strong influence in South African business companies also, where employees are highly attached to their values and for this reason are flourishing today. Every organization should adopt this philosophy to upgrade their employees’ work ethics through better overall co-ordination as well as developing mutual respect. This, not only includes the company’s employees, but everyone from the senior most to the junior most individual. When incorporated, this will create an influential ideology of potentiality for the company as well as its member, respectively.

Here are some Ubuntu concepts that could be adopted by your company:

  • We often tell ourselves stories to explain the events in our lives. Our interactions with others give us a chance to challenge these stories that could be harming our potential and obstructing with our development.
  • Ubuntu doesn't mean admiring bad work; but instead, respecting the individuals who do that work.
  • As long as there are employees who consider themselves as unimportant, the work of Ubuntu isn't done yet!

In the Ubuntu theory, there is a high human interdependency where an individual is a part of a family and the tribe. Furthermore, cooperation is viewed as an essential to achieve things of great importance. Therefore, people view others as a member of their own family. For this reason, relations depend on regards, humanness and responsibilities.

In the Ubuntu setting, interactions are a very crucial part and withdrawal from them should be abstained. Communication through music, dance, and verbal languages are valued by South Africans. For a mutual growth of the group as well as the individual, people should have the freedom to express their opinions.

In conclusion, companies can benefit to a great extent by understanding the importance of oneness and respect that represents the Ubuntu philosophy, in order to make employees feel more comfortable and help with the company´s objectives.

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