One head cannot carry a roof

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20131005-124305.jpg Source: groundswell international

The Malawian proverb “mutu umodzi susenza denga” (literary meaning one head alone can not carry a roof) means that you can’t solve problems alone. This proverb is often told to instill a sense of group superiority over the individual. This does not mean that Malawians do not celebrate the success of an individual. We do. I do. But the work of an individual is much more appreciated in relation to the group.

In my rural village when you have constructed a roof of a traditional granary, you need relatives or friends to help you lift the roof up and fix it atop the granary. You can not lift it up alone. It is close to be impossible as much as it is a taboo to do it alone.

The process of lifting up the roof atop the granary is equally important as the process of building the roof. Here is how important it is! My personal reasons why I like working in teams.

Teams help the individual showcases his or her talent

By inviting others to help you carry the roof atop the granary, you, the builder of the roof, are acknowledging that your work is complete. You are happy with it. And by accepting your invitation, your friends or relatives acknowledge your work, skill and achievement. It’s like inviting them to celebrate your success. It is a mini exhibition.

Teams help to sharpen individual talents

Before helping you carry the roof, your friends and relatives will examine the roof and either approve it as effective or not. They may make a small adjustment to tighten the ropes for it to be stronger or increase the layers of grass so that water should not leak through. The team help us to sharpen our skills and create a better product.

Teams compliment our effort.

There are situations that require more than one head. Some situations demand more than two hands. There are challenges that cannot be solved by an individual alone. You need friends and relatives to help you carry the roof atop the granary. You cannot do it alone. We need teams to compliment our effort and achieve more.

Teams propel individual skills to new levels

By carrying the roof and fixing it on the traditional granary, more people will be to see the beautifully crafted roof. More and more people passing by will be able to appreciate your work. This is possible because the roof has been put on a higher level. It is no longer on the ground. In basketball, football or soccer, the talent and skills of players is magnified by the work and skills of other team members. Michael Jordan wouldn’t have been the greatest player in basketball without being in a team.

So whatever roof you are carrying – talent, skills, or performance – you need a team.

3 Comments on “One head cannot carry a roof”

  1. I like your metaphor of roof describing necessity of teams and mutual spirit. Also, I agree with argumentation for why you like to work in a team, feel the same!

  2. Though Maya and Ivana have already said it, I think it’s worth repeating – great analogy. I really enjoyed your blog Steven.

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