29 March 2021

Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a private company

How can Collective Intelligence honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a private company?

That was the question Riana Manuel posed to me, over lunch, in Auckland last November.

Riana’s like that.

I was very eloquent in my reply, “Ummmm, I dunno, how?”

“Well, if any company can do it – Collective Intelligence can”, was her response.

The thing with Riana, she is a force of nature!

And so, our journey began.

I met with my mate, Che Wilson, for breakfast the next morning, and I posed the question to him, “How can Collective Intelligence honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a private company?”

“Great question” was his response.

Che holds extraordinary knowledge when it comes to Māori custom, history and values. He then shrugged his shoulders and said he needed to channel his ancestors (which he promptly did in the cafe). I just sat there in awe of the depth of skill of this tane.

Nothing crystalised from that, so he simply said, “We need a hui.”

So, we hosted one online with a range of Māori leaders. Riana was there of course, and I asked her to introduce her question, and the thoughts behind it.

There was unanimous enthusiasm for the kōrero this question might create.

It was agreed on our zui that there was something credible to examine in this question, so we set a date to meet in person (8 March 2021) to flesh out what could be done with this challenge that had been set down. It’s a date I will remember for a long time.

As a Pākēhā business, we had never posed this question to ourselves. With me being an older white fella, it was always ‘the Government’s job’ to honour the Treaty. So this was new territory for me.

So, the kōrero ahead of us was both exciting and daunting. Maybe even a little heavy – to think what does this mean we may have to take on?

On 8 March the sun was streaming into the historic building called the Thistle Inn in Wellington, as our group met. Not everyone knew each other. No one was sure what would come out of it. Some weren’t sure if the question was plausible. And yet they came from across the country, under their own steam to embrace what might be possible.

We spent the first hour exploring the source of the question, the frustration of racism, the lack of movement in certain sectors to embrace Māori culture. At times I wondered, “Are we making any progress with this kōrero?”

And then the focus altered slightly, and the term ‘cultural intelligence’ sprang up as the conversation broadened to include other cultures…and from there, things crystalised with stunning speed.

I shared my journey of discovery with the Māori culture, simply jotting down the steps I had taken:

Being conscious – getting curious – then a little courageous – and becoming competent

What I absolutely love about this framework is that it’s a beginner’s mindset and ends up being an infinity loop. You can progress to ‘Competent’, fall off, and then start again. I have seen this happen numerous times as we explore new cultures as a company, or facilitator, or as an individual.

At no stage do you become an expert or say, “I know the way!”. Cultural Intelligence, I believe, is just too complex and subtle for the expert mindset.

Cultural Intelligence Model

When we hit this point, the team who had assembled that afternoon at the Thistle Inn were all relaxed and happy. The best indicator that our work was done for the day. Yet, our work with the Cultural Intelligence framework is only just beginning for Collective Intelligence.

Since then, I have thought to myself, “is Collective Intelligence underway in beginning to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi?” I think we are!

With any idea/startup, timing is imperative, and the timing for this is spot on. I sense with many forward-looking companies there is a desire to support and embrace indigenous wisdom in commercial operations across Aotearoa. There is a growing appreciation of what depth lies beneath the Māori heritage, language and customs. This is not tokenism. This comes from a place of respect.

So where to from here?

I am keen to share this new framework with our Collective Intelligence teams, and explore how we can open source it, creating a platform that people can add insights, resources, and learnings to that is shared openly. It’s early days, but I know it will work.

And who was the team that met at the Thistle Inn? Anake Goodall, Che Wilson, Erin Wansbrough, Amy McLean, Bettina Anderson, Peter Butler, and of course the force of nature, Riana Manuel.

I cannot thank these people and their generosity of spirit enough, for giving us this gift – of a place to start.

Hui Attendees

Members of our 8 March hui who generously gave of their time to explore how private organisations like ours could honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
From Left: Bettina Anderson & Ian Harvey (Collective Intelligence), Riana Manual, Che Wilson, Amy McLean (on laptop!), Erin Wansbrough, Anake Goodall, and Peter Butler. The venue was the historic 1840 Thistle Inn in Wellington where Te Rauparaha it was said (probably fancifully) beached his waka on the foreshore to whet his whistle in the Thistle.


Ian Harvey (Harv)


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