Ubuntu – A Person Can Only be a Person Through Others
Ubuntu comes from the phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which means “a person can only be a person through others.”
NBA coach Doc Rivers led the Celtics in 2008 to their first championship in 22 years. With a 24-58 season, fans were calling for Rivers to be fired. In a last-ditch effort, the franchise brought 3 superstars – Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett.
But that also came with challenges. Rivers explained “The worry is that these three are leaders. I told them that if we win, we have to make sacrifices.”
The team had to change. That’s the challenge: get them to buy, to be a team – Ubuntu, the ancient African philosophy.
Weeks earlier, Rivers was leaving a meeting when a colleague visited him. “Your team will be great,” she said, according to Rivers. Have you heard of Ubuntu? She told him to seek more information.” This is not a word, Doc, this is a way of life.” Rivers explored and realized that it was a perfect philosophy to bring the team together.
Ubuntu comes from the phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which means “a person can only be a person through others.” The core to this, is the ability to be human and to value the good of the community over self-interest. It also reaffirms respect for others and manifests itself through human action in society, politics and economics.
According to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “Ubuntu is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong.”
This concept united the Celtics. For Doc, the philosophy meant “I can’t be everything that I can be if you are not everything you can be. I can never be threatened by you because you are good. After all, the better you are, the better I am. It was the perfect concept for their team to bring a talented but diverse group of players into one cohesive unit”
Doc played his part well. He did this by recruiting his rookies as ambassadors and asking them to spread the concept within the team. And it caught on. The team used it as a pre-match chant as it turned it into a successful season. After winning the finals, Ubuntu was etched on their championship rings.
It was the Celtics in 2008 that took Rivers to his only championship, Ubuntu was vital to that.
Mandela is the true upholder of Ubuntu as he used it to ensure South Africa’s peaceful transition after apartheid. He never intended to teach our oppressors a lesson. Instead, he acted with compassion and integrity, showing that to be a better South African, they cannot act out of revenge, but out of peace.
Ubuntu in business will help to create strong business partnerships for community development.
If it can be expanded to a large scale, Ubuntu has the potential to eradicate detriments due to economic growth such as greed, corruption and fraud. The concept can build progressive business partnerships, organizational activities and strategies that promote economic growth for the entire community.
Organizations that use Ubuntu undergo social responsibility activities such as scholarships, school buildings, hospital buildings, free training for the poor, and similar community-building activities. Organizations that give back to society through such activities thus contribute to the development of society.
In addition, Ubuntu will encourage the building of progressive partnerships and networks, because Ubuntu requires ” a person is who they are because of others.”
In this way, Ubuntu can be applied in business to build strong partnerships and networks of diverse organizations across different cultures, thus encouraging collaborative efforts to grow the economy.
Hence, the future of economic growth appears to be using Ubuntu to create productive business partnerships based on humanity and solidarity of purpose. This concept can also be applied by startups in their pursuit of growth by building partnerships and collaborative efforts to make their business more efficient and expansive not only for their good but also for the good of the communities.