Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

A lesson from “Australian rules football”

Missionaries working with Aboriginals in 19th century Australia decided one day to teach some of the local  youngsters to play soccer. They set about marking out a pitch, setting up makeshift goalposts and recruiting two  teams of eager players.

So, the match was on. The teams played with great gusto, throwing themselves into it 100%. – they were loving it! So much so, that as the final whistle blew, they insisted on continuing to play. The referee decided to allow them some more time, given the enjoyment they were obviously getting from it.  Even after 30 more minutes and with the light fading, they still didn’t want to stop. In fact, the thought of ending the game was actively distressing them.

It was only on enquiring as to why, that the reason came to light. It wasn’t simply because they were having  such a good time. In fact, they didn’t want to stop playing until both sides had achieved the same score.

This little story, which I heard some years back illustrates the notion that perhaps, at our core, as a species, we are more collaborative than competitive. Might it be that we have learned to be competitive, rather than it be our true nature?

Perhaps it also demonstrates that achieving outcomes that satisfy all parties’ needs takes more time and effort than does a simple, crude win/lose outcome?

Most sports would become ludicrous   shadows of themselves were it not for the competitive element – most people would say  that competitiveness is what provides the edge, the excitement.

However, how destructive might such a competitive approach be in relationship, in business , in world affairs and other environments?  Can the Aboriginals , through this tale,  teach us something about the all-win outcomes that can be ultimately achieved with such a “shift back” to a more collaborative mindset that seeks all parties’ needs being met?

Having said that, I wonder whether all parties’ needs will have indeed been met had the match continued into the evening and ended up as a win-win? The poor ref may have lost out and missed his dinner!



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