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Home Archive for category "Principles"

Seven Generations — A Beginners Guide

Oren Lyons (Onondaga)

“In our way of life, in our government, with every decision we make, we always keep in mind the Seventh Generation to come. It’s our job to see that the people coming ahead, the generations still unborn, have a world no worse than ours and hopefully better.”

 

This quote from Chief Lyons (Onondaga), derived from the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois Nation, has always struck me as an elegant and powerful statement of how we should judge the impact of our public policies and personal choices.

But I’ve also always had trouble putting the idea into concrete practice.  I mean we’re talking about the impact on my great, great, great, great, great-grandchildren!

My help came from Chris Peters (Pohlik-lah/Karuk), president of the Seventh Generation Fund.

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Balancing and Harmonizing Principles

Published on August 14, 2012 by in Principles

Any principle — no matter how good, how true
or how just — if taken to an extreme,
will
lead to disaster.

It’s easy to see this in the political realm.  The democratic principle that each individual should have a high degree of autonomy, if taken to the extreme, can lead to anarchy.  The principle of first voice, that communities should be able to define and protect their own identity, if taken to the extreme, can lead to fascism.  Each principle is important to honor, but not to the exclusion of other, equally important principles.

Similarly, in the current commercial environment, every business needs to be highly innovative and adaptive to changing market conditions.  It’s an important business principle.  But if taken to the extreme, a company can drown in R&D costs and will never establish a clear brand in the marketplace.  Giving people what they want to buy requires a certain degree of continuity over time and in terms of product portfolio, business processes and the like.  Yet taken to the extreme, this principle can lead obsolete products and less productive processes.

Even the best principle needs one or more balancing principles to keep its potential excesses in check.

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First Voice

Published on August 8, 2012 by in Principles

I was first introduced to the principle of “first voice” by Helen Valdez, one of the founders of National Museum of Mexican Art in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.  She observed that all the curated exhibits of Mexican American art in the city (and most in the country) were curated by non-Mexicans-Americans.

“This is wrong,” I recall her saying.

“The members of a culture — those that experience it on a daily basis — should have the primary right to define, interpret  and present their culture to others.”

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Principled organizations

GandhiWhen we say that a person is “principled,” we generally mean that they live their life based on a strong underlying ethic — a set of beliefs about proper behavior toward other people, and a commitment to stick to those beliefs even when tempted to act otherwise.

But what does it mean to say that an organization is principled?

I’d like to suggest that four things probably need to be true:

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