Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Over the past year, the term “tribe” has come to my attention from several different directions.

Assistant Village Idiot uses the term to describe a sort of sociological unified field theory (or perhaps only a general relativity theory) wherein tribal identity is so ingrained into human behavior and thinking that even we moderns find ourselves assuming tribal identities. Membership in modern social tribes is not so much a matter of name identification as it is the assumption of certain social/political/sub-cultural cues or signals. To see AVI’s analysis, go here.

A few months ago, Seth Godin, renowned marketing guru (on wonders if he has the word “guru” on his business card) spoke on the subject of tribes as relates to marketing. Successful marketers are people who actually leverage technology to create associations of people he calls Tribes. Whenever someone figures out how to tap into the sentiments of enough people who are thinking the same thing, but are unconnected, that person unleashes social power of some magnitude. That opportunity is greater than ever through the power of techno tools related to the internet. Tribe becomes a sort of sophisticated, fluid, self-inventing psychographic.

Along a completely different line, Tim Larkin of Target Focused Training (which deserves a post of it’s own) directed me recently to Scott Pressfield’s analysis of the War in Afghanistan. Unlike the other two, Scott is not redefining the term Tribe here, but is using it in the classic sense. He uses the classic concept of tribe and tribalism to help us re-frame the way we view the conflict in Afghanistan. It’s all about the tribes. His analysis contrasting the meaning of being a citizen of a nation, as opposed to a member of a tribe is outstanding. I hope that our commanding officer’s responsible for the conflict in Afghanistan can grasp this concept. Our leaders must recognize that asymmetrical warfare has already become the dominant model around the world and we are just playing catch up.

You can see all the video's in Pressfield's analysis of War in Afghanistan here.

It’s just fascinating to see how one word can be used to clothe such different types of ideas.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Along these lines: