Tribes are Back

Tribes are back.

Four years ago, when I was writing my book, From Lincoln to LinkedIn, The 55 Minute Guide to Social Communication,  there was a lot of talk about “Tribes” in the marketplace.

Both Seth Godin’s “Tribes” and Dave Logan’s “Tribal Leadership” focused on tribes from a first-person perspective—how to form and grow one’s own tribe of like-minded and commonly motivated individuals.  I too focused on tribes, but from another perspective, looking at how to identify existing groups of like-minded and commonly motivated individuals, and how to connect with them and mobilize them for broader purposes.

Godin and Logan sold a hell of a lot more books than I did.  But with the speed of change in business models and organizational structures accelerating dramatically over the last four years, tribes are moving from being a target of alternative internal communication approaches like social analysis and social mapping, to being recognized as the only real constant in a time when formal organizations are being continously re-configured and their personnel continually re-shuffled.

Tribes are durable because they are the result of self-identification and share personal and political bonds.  People connect with each other because they feel a desire and need to do so, and those connections are often more durable than the ever-erasable boxes and lines of the org chart. And people keep their tribal ties long after the the projects, courses, and teams where they began had run out their respective lifespans.

Tribes and tribal leaders are often difficult to identify—hence the persistence of traditional communication approaches focusing on line managers and on “all-employee” events and media.  But while seeking out tribes takes money (social mapping), time (analyzing available LinkedIn contacts for identified “tribal leaders) or guts (using an Intranet to create and surface an informed influencer network instead of seeking maximum readership of much simpler material), a tribal communication strategy connects organizational content with personal credibility and targeted connectivity.

Tribes may be hard to bring to the surface, but they offer highly efficient, effective and credible means of delivering messages and channeling motivation when found.   With organizations in constant flux, tribal ties become the primary constant.

That’s why tribes are back.

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