November 13, 2008
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Tribes
Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin, Portfolio, 151 pages, $19.95, Hardcover, October 2008, ISBN 9781591842330 "We Need You To Lead Us." The call to action is clear and powerful, exactly what you would expect from marketer Seth Godin. But when is the last time a book's subtitle expected so much from you? Most business books are created to sell you something, some way you'll be improved or bettered. Think about how that simple statement turns all of the reader's expectations around. In Tribes, Seth expands on his previous mantra: now, not only are we all marketers, but we are also now leaders. He says there are existing guilds, legions and platoons of people just waiting for someone to step forward, though fear will deter many from the call. "Fear of change is built into most organisms, because change is the first sign of risk." The irony is that change is exactly what tribes wants, but they need fearless crusaders leading the way. There are differences between tribes and groups. Tribes are about connections and the communication that runs sideways between those connections. The members of a tribe share a vision and tell a story about who they are. And they do something, whether trading baseball cards or protesting a war. If any of the three conditions are lacking, the tribe becomes merely a group. "What Do You Have to Lose?" Seth asks in one of his final riffs. He refers to Brad Garlinghouse and his Peanut Butter Memo, a missive imploring his bosses at Yahoo to change the direction of the company. His memo got leaked and ended up on the front page of The Wall Street Journal (imagine Brad's next week in Sunnyvale). That risk led to the firing of a CEO and Brad to a bigger role at Yahoo. Many people may find that kind of move too risky. But was it really a risk? Silicon Valley is full of companies looking for heretics like Brad. What Brad saw a tribe that needed leading. I have reviewed every book Seth has written since I started this column in 2000. In Tribes, Seth certainly delivers his most important book since Purple Cow and quite possibly his most important book yet. It is time to look at Seth as more than a marketer. He too is a leader of tribes.