Monday, November 03, 2008

Tribes

I was listening to Brother Jim's short audio magazine this morning. It was entitled, Quotes From Seth Godin's Tribes. The original audio can be found here as an Mp3.

First I would like to mention that Seth Godin, who Jim mentions, not only has the book "Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us", but he offers a free downloable pdf e-book of the "Tribes Casebook" which is meant to be a companion to Tribes. This e-book has been written by a private online group of people using a Ning social networking format. Seth also mentions..."Feel free to share it or post it or print it, but please don't sell it." Here is a quote from his website concerning the group who has been instrumental in the writing of the e-book:
Three months ago, I posted just once about joining a private online group (it's on Ning... sort of like Facebook, but by invitation only). Well, quite a few people joined in, and about 10% became seriously active. On good days, there's a new post every minute or two. There are hundreds of groups, thousands of discussions and a lot of energy. The tribe taught me a great deal about the dynamics of a group, and they've been a terrific resource, not just for me, but for each other. This ebook represents some of their thinking. The group remains closed, but feel free to start one of your own.

That is an extraordinary accomplishment in my book. I've seen small pockets of like minded people sprout up on the Internet over the last nine years or so, which is how long I've really been participating in this extraordinary human experiment of collaboration via the web. I've had the extreme good fortune of participating and contributing in two memorable groups and have communicated with many more that overlapped both those groups. Being more progressive minded than most of the close neighbors in my physical world, the Internet offered me a venue to reach others who had the same values and ideals. This venue has led to me discovering other like minded people in my physical world, maybe not necessarily in the nearby community, but in my real world where we do share our front porches, a good cool or warm drink, and some warm and stimulating conversations. It seems the parallel of the online and physical communities lies in the open communication or collaboration within each. Without this, neither community will accomplish much more than a bunch of folks making small talk.

I've often wondered if it were possible for other communities of like minded people to combine into a single entity. I think I now believe that this probably is not good for the community. I'm not saying the communities shouldn't overlap in places of like interest, but from what I've gathered doing my time on the web trails, it's best for the small groups or communities to remain autonomous and work together with other groups of interest on a flat playing field, on our porches if you will. Yes, I do know of, and have contributed to much larger websites that pool people together with an intent of focusing large numbers toward particular interests and goals. There are hordes of political action and coalition websites that accomplish many goals and help to activate people. These are some wonderful websites, but they are just that...websites...not communities in the sense I view a community. They have their place, but those sort of social sites mostly use the old hierarchical structure of our fathers and forefathers. Just my humble opinion but these are aged structures from the Industrial Age that no longer seem to fit within the context of community as it's being defined by many progressive people these days. I guess I'm one of those who is searching for that perfect definition of community. That search will more than likely continue until I'm dust in the wind.

Jim's talk made me think back to where I began. I really didn't begin to reach out in earnest until July of 2000. It wasn't easy for a self-educated pipe fitter to feel at ease along side of the thinking heads I was constantly coming in contact with as I went deeper into the Internet. Some of the first folks I opened up to were over at the old Members for Democracy website. That site was constructed as a Canadian local union's election platform which morphed into a union reform site because of the undemocratic elections themselves. The site then began to attract other reformers from over the world. As it continued, it became a haven for labor activists as well as business and law representatives. So there I was in the middle of all these learned folks and my eyes spent as much time in the dictionary as they did on the screen. But I discovered it wasn't the vocabulary or the sheepskin that made a real human being. It was about being honest and following your conscious that made the thoughts I had to share valuable. Once that realization hit home, a freedom came over me and the chains fell free! The more I spoke up, the more the people of the community supported and helped me out through the learning process. It's about sharing, teaching, and learning. I owe practically everything I've learned during my participation on the web to all these wonderful people who "get it" and understand that giving it away is the right thing to do.


I would like to share a story that is somewhat related to Seth's book "Tribes" and his views of leadership. One of the earlier times while I was just beginning to have the courage to speak, there was a discussion started by Bill Pearson, who was a local union president at the time, concerning transformational leadership and even leaderless groups. The discussion grew pretty ugly as it went on and two sides of thoughts on the subject of leadership quickly emerged. This discussion was one of the first times I had felt confident enough to join in and give my opinion on how I saw leaders. Of course this discussion was built around our labor union leaders, but leaders and leadership are the same, regardless if we're talking organizational, communal or political.
IMHO, leaders must be selfless, and place the goals desired by the people who vote them into their position, above any and all personal goals. A leader is a tool the voters use to achieve these desired goals and the leader must be willing to listen to, as well as help educate, their brothers and sisters. The thought of one individual knowing what is best for the majority is unsettling to me unless they have listened to the people who have placed them into their position. Leaders can no longer be arrogant or overbearing when it comes to the masses who have chosen them to lead. Bottom line, a leader IMHO, is a person who labors or exerts himself for the benefit of the people who have placed their trust in them. In this context, we should all be leaders within the labor movement.

The reply to that statement was liberating! At that moment I didn't feel as if my beliefs were so far out there that they would be deemed insane. A reassuring moment for sure, and one that flipped the switch for me! ;-) Here is the reply I received:
The only thing I would add is that leaders should also inspire and encourage creativity and inquisitiveness on the part of their colleagues (and that's what they'll be: colleaugues, fellow members, partners, allies - anything but "followers"). They will encourage people to question conventional wisdom and push out the boundaries of what is known or accepted.

The reason we have so much trouble getting our heads around these new notions of leadership, is that this is all so foreign to us. We've had centuries - millenia actually - of conditioning against this notion. The conditioning tells us that we are too stupid to decide what's best for ourselves and too selfish to work collaboratively towards our goals. We need strong leaders who will take us to some goal that has been decided as "best for us" by others. This is the purpose of dogma - to provide a place where we can led by some guy who thinks he'll be proven right when he gets us there.

The notion of the leaderless organization is scary because we've been told that we're not up for making it happen.

I mentioned later that there was no doubt there were many leaders who post on the forums. Some may be born leaders, others possibly are taught to be leaders, some are not leaders who think they are, and others are leaders who don't think they are. But the leaderless structure which was discussed in that thread had struck a chord within me somewhere. I just couldn't get that out of my mind and to this day I believe this is possible. We are all leaders and as responsible human beings, we should be in a constant teacher/learner frame of mind and maybe...just maybe, an egalitarian civilization will be possible. Throughout my life, the word civilization has been a negative connotation that represented anything but equal or civil. At least that's how I've viewed it through my experience. It was the support of the community that created my energy and spurred my attempt to write my first real article. Civilized To the Edge of Uncivilization. I was no longer a nOOb but was very self-conscious about my abilities as I still am to this day. Surrounding oneself with great human beings is key to getting through all this!

Eventually discussion once again turned toward the idea of leaderless organizations and the possibility of reaching consensus due to the small nature of the structures. The book The End of Management, and the rise of organizational democracy was introduced into the discussion and described as a new business perspective on how 'networked' groups or 'webs' will do away with the need for 'heads'.
The leaderless group is small enough that it can reach consensus. Those who can't mesh with the rest of the group will move on and join groups where they can reach consensus. Each of the groups will expand, contract, disappear and reappear with different participants. Those groups, or nodes, will seek out other nodes to network with. When an issue arises, which affects the nodes, the ones affected will begin to network and 'web' to address the issue. When the issues or 'event' to address the issue is exhausted or resolved, the nodes dissipate to resume their networking with like-minded nodes.

To see the ideas still surfacing surrounding the necessary changes needed in our leadership structures is a great thing! Seth Godin's book "Tribes" is definitely a good sign that people are "getting it" and we are still heading towards something better. This is a great time to be alive, and whether we can see it or not...we are in the middle of a huge global transformation. A transformation toward better values and a more just and peaceful world.

2Comments:

Blogger Tara said...

Seth is a ebook professional author. As a marketer, you can learn as much from the way he markets himself (his presentation, the group of people that showed up and the venue were all remarkable) as from his writing and speaking about Tribes marketing.

A lot of Seth’s advice seems like common sense.
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taracarolyn

advisor

Tuesday, 04 November, 2008  
Blogger atuuschaaw said...

Thank you for your comment tara. Seth appears to have grasped what the important part of any group is, and that's the people who share the responsibilities of maintaining that group. I'm sure he's a marketing genius, but quite frankly, the word marketing is a turn off for me. I've always believed anything worth value does not need marketing...it will sell itself. The word marketing conjures up a vision that just appears to be more like a psychological control for consumers. If we have to market something, let's choose something that will bring the world rewards of equality, end of starvation, human rights, education, and peace. Forget monetary profit...let our profits be humanity instead.

It's Seth's ideas about leadership that really caught my attention. Having discussed different types of leaders and their leadership qualities over the years, the horizontal organization is the most egalitarian in my opinion. If you haven't read Rune Kvist Olsen's work on Vertical To Horizontal: A New Workplace Reality, you should take a look.

Tuesday, 04 November, 2008  

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