Q&A: Tribes and the reality of worldview

Our series continues with my book Tribes. It's nice that we're featuring it on Labor Day, a holiday in the US that celebrates some of the most impactful tribal behavior in recent history.

It's easy to gloss over the key points of the book, because for some, it's frightening to realize that each of us has the ability to find and lead like-minded people to make real and powerful change that matters. Lead, not manage. Like-minded, as opposed to converting those who have no connection to us, to each other or to our goals.

As we shift from an economy dominated by mass marketing of the mass produced, this ability to lead is fundamentally transformative.

The selfish nature of the industrialist (hey, I made this, how do I get people to buy it?) hasn't gone away. Whether it's a small coaching service, a non-profit, a local window cleaning business or a big company, the most misguided assertion is, "I have a tribe, how do I make it bigger?" In fact, you might very well have customers, but it's unlikely you have a tribe, not if you haven't intentionally worked to engage at this level.

So, the question… "One of my favourite passages from Tribes is:   

People don’t believe what you tell them.  They rarely believe what you show them.  They often believe what their friends tell them.  They always believe what they tell themselves.   

My question – what is the best way to join the conversation that is already taking place in the minds and hearts of your tribe?  What is the best way to seek out members of your tribe that have the same beliefs as you?" Thanks to Giovanni Marsico for the question.

We just celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, and understanding how the organizers that led that singular event succeeded can help us understand how tribes work. They didn't create this movement by merely organizing people who already believed in the urgency of the civil rights movement and were ready to march. No, they organized people who already believed in their community, who already cared very much about what their neighbors (not everyone, just the circle of people from their church, their town, their community) did and thought. Only after they organized were they able to embrace their shared understanding of the enormity of racial segregation and respond to the leaders who made the urgency of the moment so clear.

So they began with the bravest early adopters, the few who held the worldview that it was not only their responsibility to take action, but that taking action now was urgent. Early adopters have a worldview different from their neighbors. They ask themselves, "what's vitally important and how soon can we start?" They gave these folks a path, coordinating and reinforcing their actions.

The next step, so critical, is that they amplified the social connections and media cues that would spread the idea of urgency to neighbors, to people less inclined to take action. "People like us do things like that." It's not an accident that the civil rights movement was lead by a pastor, and that much of it was based in churches. Those churches were a natural nexus, a place where people were already coming to see what people like them were going to do next.

Worldview isn't sufficient, and worldview isn't impossible to change. But what worldview does is give you the bridge, the ability to engage people in the tribe, and then, and only then, do you have the privilege to change the conversation.

The goal isn't to find people who have already decided that they urgently want to go where you are going. The goal is to find a community of people that desire to be in sync and who have a bias in favor of the action you want them to take.

A long blog post, but worth it I hope: You don't build a tribe about the thing you want to sell. You don't even build a tribe about the thing you want to accomplish. You build it around the community and experience that the tribe members already want to have.