The Gathering and Influence of Tribes

by Jay Deragon on 03/23/2011

When people, millions of them, gather around common interest and apply the influence of collective voices and buying power shift happens. People gathering together represents “tribes” with common objectives and intents. Tribes are gather around anything, everything and everybody with the ability to influence markets, politics as well as entire economies.

A tribe consists of a social group gathering around common interest and intents. Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to groups organized largely on the basis of kinship. Social tribes represent a stage in social evolution and because of the web we are witnessing social revolutions.

A true tribe  exhibits some degree of social cohesion. Characteristics shared by tribe members  may include interests, values, representations, ethnic, social and political backgrounds. The defining characteristic of a tribe is social interaction aimed at common objectives.

The more interaction amongst tribe members and member growth the more influence the tribe has on common objectives. We can see this happening all around us, locally, globally and with no barriers to engagement. The gathering is a new form of social interaction on and off line. The influence grows in power because of the ability to connect, collaborate, inspire and act collectively like never before.

Where is the Evidence?

There are small and big ripples of tribal influence happening daily and the momentum grows exponentially as each tribe teaches another tribe  how to influence outcomes. The teaching isn’t in classrooms or webinars about how to use social media rather what is learned are the result of simple yet profound communications from one to one to many. In the old days local tribes would gather in physical locations and only the local media would cover such gatherings. Local gatherings were limited to locally interested parties and the time it took to participate in “gatherings”.  Today tribal gatherings are happening 24/7 and location is not geographically limited because the web has enabled people to meet, engage, collaborate and express from around the world to around the corner.  Tribal dynamics are disrupting traditional influence as well as  business and media models. Consider these examples:

  1. Senator Barack Obama leveraged the influence of tribes to rally “followers” and “donors” enough to capture the United States Presidency.
  2. A cry for democracy is being heard throughout the middle east and “tribes” are using their collective voices to be heard around the globe.
  3. Tribes are influencing brands, businesses and entire governments.  The influence of these tribes is changing business and governance as usual.
  4. Major media outlets, print and broadcast, are trying to gather tribes to influence tribal thinking and behavior. In response tribes are applying their influence on media to get what they want rather than giving media what it wants.
  5. The “gathering and collection” of tribes seems to be the game of the day. The game changes when the tribes become the influence over the “collectors”.

Tribes have a purpose that is different than business thinking and media influence of the past. Tries aim to improve situations, thinking and old business models. Tribes recognize constraints to progress and use their collective voices to remove old constraints created by past thinking. Tribal behavior will change institutional learning models of the industrial era; here is what you need to know to do what others want you to do. The 21st Century tribal model is driven by intrinsic motivation of the individual to learn what they want to know to do what we want to do.  Now the world is learning what tribes want to do and it is different than what the world wants them to do.


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