As part of the relaunch of Human Business Works, my COO Rob Hatch and I have talked a lot about tribalism. What does it mean to support one another? What does it mean to seek common identity? What are the best parts of being a tribe? What doesn’t work as well? Interestingly, one realization I’ve had is that there are several media stories and parts of business books that mention a tribal mindset as a negative. Rob and I feel differently.
Business is About Belonging
One of the first reactions we have when taking in new information is, “What does this mean to me?” Somewhere in the processing, we ask the question a slightly different way: “am I the type of person who ____?” If I talk about how important it is to set up a meaningful email marketing program, and you aren’t into email marketing, one of the first questions that sneaks into your mind is “am I in the wrong place? Are these my people?” Essentially, we seek to belong, and we want to know who our people are and aren’t.
We Want a Place, A Part, A Role
You’ve felt this thousands of times, though you probably have only named it a few dozen: it feels awkward when you’re not sure what to do, how you fit in, where you should be. Sometimes, it’s when you show up to a job interview and the friendly person you know is no where in sight. Other times, it’s when you go to a birthday for a friend and you find yourself talking to that friend’s relatives. Sometimes, it’s when something bad happens, and we want to step in and help, but we have no idea what to do. Part of tribalism, and why I think it’s useful, is that when you know the goals and intentions of your tribe, you can guess how you fit in, and you can find some common interests.
We Like Rooting For Something/Someone
As I’m writing this, the Boston Red Sox are facing off against the Angels. I was born and raised in New England. I’m not actually a Red Sox fan. But should I be out and traveling, people will talk to me about how the Sox are doing. They’ll talk teams in a heartbeat, especially because it’s the Red Sox, who have a national appeal. Part of being in a tribe is that we can have the opportunity of rooting for each other’s success. We can praise each other’s accomplishments, and value what each other brings to the experience.
We Can Make Sense Of Our Universe
Because a tribe separates people into two groups: in our tribe, not in our tribe, it’s reasonable that when thinking about who you should reach out to talk with about an opportunity for business would start with the tribe. This means that our decision set is smaller. I know plenty of WordPress site developers. I work with two, because I consider them part of the tribe. Are there less expensive options? No doubt. Are there better-skilled people? Perhaps. But I don’t even have to think about it right now, because the two people inside my tribe that do that kind of work are great. This shrinks the universe in a way that appeals to humans.
Sure There Are Downsides
One could argue that a tribalistic mindset pushes a kind of clique-like behavior. I can see that. One could say that people are unfairly excluded from potential experiences just because they’re not part of a group. True. If you stay limited to who you know, and don’t develop a method for growth, the tribe will shrink and vanish, or grow stale.
But will I take those downsides as part of the puzzle to understand? No question.
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