Tribal leadership, a source of understanding, a force for development…

There’s a great video on Youtube from TedTalks about the 5 levels of ‘tribes’ …

This kind of talk really interests me for a few reasons.

1- I consider myself more of a motivator, rather than a leader. I don’t like to tell people what to do (even when I was in that ‘role’ in previous jobs, before I quit to build my own business). I rather like to setup the emotional , technical, and informational conditions that allow for the right things to happen, and push that with motivation and ‘goal oriented’ decision making.

2- I work really well alone, both because I can take on things with a steep learning curve and consume them very rapidly as well as because I have a way of about me in following my instincts, any data or statistics I can get my hands on, and having an overactive brain that can see any issue from many points of view… and so I have a constant internal dialog that is equivalent to a group meeting (Sans the group think and intimidation).

So group dynamics and group work has always interested me.

As I look back at things, my old Job at the power company was with a level 2 tribe…

The power company always thought ‘if we were a different utility, like telecom, we’d be able to be profitable off of cell phones, DSL subscribers, and fiber optics… but since we aren’t then our life sucks.”

Thus the type of work always done there was substandard, since we knew for sure that it would never result in profits (you can’t make profit on a fixed price product that is government subsidized and sold at 25% it’s actual delivered cost).

I resisted the atmosphere in the place and came out at level 3 tribal mentality often … “I’m good, and you’re not…” which was met with agreement on their part of yes “Our life sucks” …

This was really frustrating… but then… I broke away.

I am now in a new relationship with one of my old friends where we build custom websites for small business. This is not my main business focus as it’s hands on work that I have to do , that doesn’t generate auto income like my other e-commerce sites.

Even though this isn’t a scalable business model for me, I’m enjoying this new kind of relationship at ‘work’.

You take an artist that can’t do web development but can shoot great photo/video  &

You take me, a web developer that can’t fill his websites with high quality rich media content….

You put us together and you have a strong development house.

This takes both me and my friend from being isolated experts in our individual fields (namely level 3 tribes) and starts to create a new attractor at level 4. The thought that us, together, are stronger, than either of us alone is both exciting because it expands our incomes and our reach, as well as humbling as you are reminded daily that you are in a symbiotic relationship where your thrive is dependent on your partner and visa versa.

So in true TED Talks fashion, if I had to sit back and extract the ‘higher meaning’ of our relationship I would say this… when you look to expand your business, it may be a healthy thing to look at what kind of tribe you will be creating through your expansion…

Are you moving from level 1 to level 2 ? Where you are shifting your operating base from a location that is in crisis (where everyone around you is also in crisis) to a new location that is not… where you realize that your situation sucks, but there are other opportunities elsewhere to capitalize on ?

Are you moving from a level 2 to a level 3 by moving sideways into a new position where you are no longer disadvantaged but rather getting a lead on your competition with a new strategic partner, an inaccessible (to others) distribution or marketing network, a new patent protected product or service …etc ?

Are you moving from level 3 to level 4 ? By merging with your ‘competitors’ to create something larger than your current self ? What if we could merge Sega and nintendo back in the early 90s ? What if we could create 1 gaming box using the experiences from both manufacturers to create THE ULTIMATE gaming experience ?

In business, it’s very common for competitors to polarize. If I’m competing on size, you may compete on value, if I compete on simplicity and ease of use, you may compete on extensive advanced features.

After several iterations of market segmentation and each business polarizing itself to hold a position in the market (and a strong brand positioning with the customers) you find that the two resulting business, although technically competitors, go about things very differently.

What happens if for some reason we take the best that business A has learned about simplicity, design, ease of use and combine it with the intricacy, features, and technicality of the products produced in business B?

Couldn’t we create a level 4 ‘tribe’ and a new ‘mega product’ that combines features that are at first glance improbable or impossible to exist in the same product (ex. a faster car that gets better mileage… these things are possible even though they at first seem to be polar opposite… and are exactly what ‘innovation’ is all about).

Are you moving from level 4 to a level 5 tribe ?

The cause based business model is a very powerful one.

Wikipedia and craigslist are two strong examples of business that have high customer attachments due to a higher ideal truly running the business.

You have to think about these things not just in a personal sense in your self and your connections, but rather think about the ‘tribe’ of customers and how they see your business and utilize your products.

Are they buying your product because their life sucks and you are the only thing that they can afford (and thus you are serving a level 2 tribe ???)… Or are they buying your product because it enables them to move up the hierarchy by getting more informed, more connected, more experienced…etc

Interesting thought.

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