What’s A Tribe?

Keith Haring connects

Human beings can’t help it. We need to belong.

One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe. To contribute to and take from a group of like-minded people.

We are drawn to leaders and to their ideas and we can’t resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new.

We want to belong to a tribe that stands for something bigger than ourselves.

Tribes are everywhere

There are the tribes you work with.

Tribes you travel with.

Tribes you buy with.

Tribes that vote, that discuss, that fight.

Tribes dedicated to social good.

Tribes where everyone knows your name.

Even tribes you twist balloons with.

Tribes defined

A tribe is a group of people who are connected by three things.

They are first, and foremost, connected to one another.

Second, they are all connected to an idea. A cause. A purpose.

And third, they are connected to a leader. The leader sets the direction and then facilitates ways for the tribe to connect and move forward.

If we believe that the tribe stands for something bigger than ourselves we’re willing to get emotionally involved. And we do it by connecting with others who share our cause and purpose.

Why people join tribes

When we emotionally connect with others the resulting relationships can be especially satisfying. They can be helpful. And powerful.

They can guide us through our lives.

They can make us feel happy.

Here are a few more specific motivations for joining tribes:

  • Purely Social
    To feel less alone and to connect with people (near or far) to pursue shared interests.
  • Values + Social
    To connect with others who share the same values in a social setting.
  • Cultural + Social
    To share experiences with natives of the same country. Often this revolves around speaking the same language and observing cultural traditions together.
  • Business + Social
    To develop relationships with others in the same industry. Or to expand our network into other disciplines.

A tribe is not an audience

In fact, tribes are very different from audiences.

That’s because tribes are not about stuff and messages. Tribes are all about emotional connection.

Tribes are not determined by demographics or psychographics.

They are defined by a shared worldview.

Worldview defined

The guiding principle of how worldview drives a tribe is this:

We do not see the world as the world is. We see the world as we are.

A worldview is a shared belief about how the world works, what’s important, what’s of most value.

An important part of worldview is the belief that something in the world is not right. It needs to be fixed.

This shared view of the world is the thing that connects tribe members together.

And it connects them through a shared cause. A common purpose.

And that purpose revolves around changing what is not right with the world.

Start with empathy

So the bedrock of connecting with someone and connecting him or her with others is empathy.

Empathy that comes from understanding their shared beliefs and biases. Their worldview.

When you add a person’s passion to a tribe’s shared worldview you create a cause that connects. That’s because it leverages people’s biases instead of fighting them.

The leader’s opportunity

This gives those who lead tribes a huge opportunity. An opportunity that’s bigger than messaging ever was.

You remember messaging? It’s that thing that doesn’t work anymore.

The opportunity is to help people. To create experiences around their passion. Experiences that help them connect to others and together fulfill their common cause.

And it is accomplished by enabling the tribe to act. Not by telling them what they should believe or what they should do.

Tribes make change

It happens when leaders create experiences that do two things.

They connect tribe members to each other

And, at the same time, help them do something to change things that they can’t do by themselves.

Connected together and empowered to act, tribes are the major force in creating movements.

And movements change the world for good.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?