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This is an attempt to describe the process of working with tribes. It is not meant to be a waterfall method, but rather small agile loops. Truth be told, it’s meant to be more of an instrument for reflection and mind-set than strict real world application. Reality is just too complex to be captured in a model, and this is especially true for human interaction. When interacting and communicating with people you should not be acting out of a manual, but rather your full human capacities. Regardless, I hope you will find this useful for thinking about your own tribaling efforts.
This first step is only relevant if you are looking to locate or expand the tribes you are collaborating with. Tribal spotting is the art of finding tribes which could make a good match for your organization and it’s endeavors. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to develop and test new ideas and products? Increase the value of your brand or sales? A good match will nearly always find commonality in shared values, purposes or ideas. For example: Red Bull shares the ideals and values of dangerous sports. Their pursuit for adventure, and pushing the limits of the self, would not be an ideal match for the safe confinements of snooker or darts.
This is about going native, in order to understand and decode the social aspects of the tribe. During this step your tribal spotting will either be confirmed or challenged. The aim is to go beyond the evident and read between the lines to find the meaning created through shared experiences, stories and symbols. Where others see the how and the what, you must dig deeper to see the why. While most would say “Hey, they are building stuff out of organic materials”, you should be able to say “Yes, and it expresses their longing for a deeper purpose, to re-connect with nature and be a part of the whole”. By understanding the significance of tribal phenomenon you can understand what the tribe really desires and what you could possibly offer.
Supporting tribes is really about mutual benefit, collaboration and exchange, rather than exploitation. The deeper understanding gained, from your tribal investigation, is going to help you share stuff that the tribe truely values, not merely for it’s functional benefits, but symbolic. If you have stuff to share, then it will most likely need to be ‘translated’. You will need to re-code your assets based on what you de-coded during your investigation. The aim of tribal contribution is to introduce yourself and build trust. It is not really that different from regular relationships. Someone has to take the first step, and display sincerity and respect.
This is really about getting your hands dirty and becoming an integral part of the tribe. It’s about doing stuff together, letting loose and having fun. It’s about sharing experiences and stories which are rememberable and sharable. You are there to listen, learn and make an impression. In one way this approach and it’s conclusions is the anti-thesis to traditional marketing.
You could call it un-marketing. Or tribaling.