Dr Tyson Yunkaporta
The importance of respecting different perspectives, the value of deep listening, the sacredness of the land and the power of recognising who holds the knowledge in moments and situations were some of the themes that arose in the very powerful discussion between Dr Tyson Yunkaporta and Barbara Harvey.
In this article, Cahoot Learning will offer some of these insights from the “In Cahoots” session with Dr Tyson Yunkaporta.
The Art of Listening
Hearing is one of the most important senses for humans. And many people would think that hearing is just about audio, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Tyson started the conversation by posing a challenge to us all. “Are we really listening?” He explained that hearing and listening are not the same things, and that “listening has become a scarce resource.” In indigenous languages all of the words for cognition- for thinking, ideating, imagining usually have the word for ear or listen in them. Listening and thinking are one and the same. He challenged “What kind of sense-making are we doing if we are all not listening to each other?” And noted that in indigenous knowledge, wisdom is linked with listening.
The notion of storytelling it would seem isn’t about telling at all, but rather a listening experience which enriches all involved.
Yarning Leads to a Meta-narrative
According to Tyson, “Yarning” is collective governance and a structure of sharing and respecting stories and viewpoints. Indigenous knowledge is preserved, shared and passed on from generation to generation through yarning. Tyson’s thoughts on yarning resonated deeply with the attendees of “In Cahoots”.
Tyson explained Yarning to be “where everybody gets to inhabit the ontologies of everybody else, and there’s an aggregate that’s formed. And I often describe it as a group of people standing on a beach when there’s a full moon at night and they are all seeing the reflection of the moon. If it was a debate, everybody would be looking to put forward their version of where the moon is shining but yarning is something that allows everybody to sit around and tell the stories”, which then creates an aggregate of narratives.
Yarning encourages people to be responsible, respectful, and honest when interacting between people, providing a safe space to be heard and respond. It’s also a harmonious, creative and collaborative way of communicating. Through yarning, communities form an aggregate of micro-narratives to serve as a foundation to a meta-narrative. Tyson warns that no narrative is allowed to be the dominant narrative. And suggested the link to organisations would be to question “what would it look like to aggregate the narratives rather than decide which narrative is true”,
Hear what Dr Tyson has to share about yarning in the video below.
Action and Reaction
Throughout the “In Cahoots” series, we are presenting some learning bytes to provoke thought and stir things up! In the session, Barbara talked about the accidental discovery of bubble wrap. Initially a failed experiment of textured wallpaper the inventors adapted their creation for protecting fragile items for shipping. Dr Tyson acknowledged the power in discovery but warned of the impact of unintended consequences.
On the one hand, this creation has changed people’s lives for the better- no more broken plates on arrival! Bubble wrap is light and highly protective, making it perfect for wrapping around fragile items to provide cushioning during shipping. On the other hand, bubble wrap creates an insurmountable amount of plastic waste, subsequently damaging the already declining nature and its ecosystem.
Storytelling is a brilliant method for collective learning. Having the capability to listen deeply, yarning with others without allowing a dominant narrative, and being aware of the unintended consequences of our decisions, are all components of a collective learning environment.
One of the lasting impressions from an attendee was “I actually hung on a phrase that Tyson used: he lived a relational and connected life. I feel we’re missing that, and I love the narrative came back to that point again and again in different ways, with different connections.”
If you are keen on watching Dr Tyson’s session, we have a recording accessible for you here.
Learn how to communicate with impact with Cahoot Learning. Learn unlearn relearn through a cohort-based learning model in our platform, with courses ranging from adaptive leadership course to innovative strategy course.
In our next “In Cahoots” session, we have Sarah Brooker, who will walk us through the journey of learning, unlearning and relearning. Register to join us for our next “In Cahoots” session with Sarah Brooker!
About the Storyteller
Dr Tyson Yunkaporta
Dr Tyson is a scholar on how Indigenous thinking can lead to innovation and save the world. He is an academic, an arts critic, and a researcher who belongs to the Apalech Clan in far north Queensland. He carves traditional tools and weapons and also works as a senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University in Melbourne.
Author of Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, Tyson looks at global systems from an Indigenous perspective. He asks how contemporary life diverges from the pattern of creation. How does this affect us? How can we do things differently?