I started reading Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin a couple days ago. It is a short read and well worth the time. As an individual who has spent a good portion of the last 15 years or so on the Internet, participating in various tribes, the ideas are not new but Godin has a wonderful way of explaining the power of tribes. Anyone in doubt of the true power of tribes and technology needs to read this book.
But that is not why I am writing this post. The thought that occurred to me as I was reading Tribes is that everything Godin says about the power and ability for any individual to lead a tribe also applies to every organization. This book should not be looked on as only a call to arms for individuals to become the leader they could be. This book should also be a manifesto for every organization that yearns to be more.
Godin talks about the need for an organization or tribe to have “true fans.” These are people who will do almost anything to support you, they talk about you all the time, and they are willing to go the extra mile or pay the extra dollar to have your product. True fans make up the heart of a tribe.
According to Godin:
Too many organizations care about numbers, not fans.
Every organization I have worked for was guilty of counting people like widgets. I am guilty of this. You are guilty of this.
One of the first questions we ask about a new service, website, or tool is how many users it has, how many unique visitors have come, or how many people have bought the product. While we may ask if there has been any anecdotal feedback, we never, ever ask if we have converted any fans.
One true fan of a service could be more influential, more important, than having 100 blase users. One true fan will spread the good word and try to convert others. A simple adopter will not say a word and your service dies with their lack of passion.
How would our organizations change if we stopped counting clicks and widgets and started counting fans?
If we started counting fans, we could use our new tribe to create change in our community or within the profession. Our organization could become the leader it always wanted to be.
Darien Library is a perfect example of what can happen when an organization harnesses the power of its tribe. Darien is a leader among library organizations because of their ability to see three separate groups as true fans and part of their tribe: the community they serve, the Darien Library staff themselves, and other librarians in the profession. With this tribe behind them and a vision before them, Darien is blazing a trail and many of us are happily following along.
Where are you taking your tribe today?
–Jane, is a true fan of many tribes