Knowledge Lab

The Good Team Story

Dhuwa and Yirritja

(A Cultural Approach to the Good Team story)

Aboriginal philosophy in the Yolngu territories of North east Arnhem Land is a very complex system built upon a very simple concept.  This concept is called Dhuwa (pronounced “doowah”) and Yirritja (pronouced “yiddicha”). 

Everything in the Yolngu world view is made up of these two “moieties” (The word moiety means ‘half’).  These are two halves of the holistic world fit together perfectly. Everything in Yirritja and Dhuwa is connected, and one cannot exist without the other. The concept is similar in some ways to the Chinese philosophy of Ying and Yang.  People, animals, plants, places and even the different winds are either Dhuwa or Yirritja.  There are Dhuwa didjeridus and Yirritja didjeridus…

Dhuwa and Yirritja are almost like two separate cultures that coexist and interact in the Yolngu world. Each has its own sets of mythologies, parts of which are owned by different clans that belong to that particular moiety. Nothing in the Yolngu universe is excluded from this system or from these stories.

Good Team Process.  The key to an effective team can also be represented in the Dhuwa and Yirritja story of the Yolngu peoples of North-East Arnhem Land.  Just like all the things in the world and universe, teams need to respect two elements in order to exist and function properly too. 

Firstly, a team needs to get things done.  This function is called “Content” and always deals with the “what” side of a team’s achievements.   In other words, what it gets done, or the actual results.  But a team also needs to work together effectively to get things done.  This function is called the “Process” and deals with the “how” side of a team’s performance.  The way a team manages these two elements and gets top results is an important story for any team. 

Just like in Yolngu philosophy, you cannot have one culture without the other, and both are opposing but equally dependent forces. Both need to be respected and acknowledged.  A team that just focuses on whats it gets done (Content) loses out on the relationship factor and misses quality contributions from all its members.  Such a team eventually falls apart due to dissatisfied members either leaving the group or causing disharmony.  A team cannot survive and prosper this way.

Coming closer to Yolngu culture makes you realize very quickly the need to recognize and respect the Dhuwa and Yirritja story.  In this way there is harmony in all things.  So too in working to make teams more effective, we must recognize and respect both the Content and Process of any outcome.  Then harmony and productivity prevails. 
This is a good team-building story…

Scott Estrich
BushLab Team Boosta

Author Scott Estrich at BushLab copyright 2011
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