Community Insights Through Tribes
I have been interested in the modern take on Tribes since Seth Godins book ‘Tribes’ and the interesting analysis of videos like the ‘Dancing Guy’.
As the theme for CongRegation is ‘Community’ I have been expanding my reading on the topic and this month I devoured (audio books versions) of I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice and It Takes a Tribe by Will Dean
Both are very different books. In ‘I Found My Tribe’ Ruth Fitzmaurice narrates how she coped and adopted her life following the life changing prognosis of Motor Neurone Disease that her husband Simon was received early in marriage.
Naturally much of the book is occupied with the ever present shadow of the disease and its impact and the emotional rollercoaster it creates but the author does dedicate time to discussing the importance, shape and evolution of her tribe – initially her family but mainly a group of friends whodiscovered a love of all year round sea swimming. Her swimming companions all have their own stories and personalities but plunging to freezing and testing their bodies endurance made them stronger and formed extremely close sisterhood bonds. This notion of pushing our bodies to help us deal with tragedy and survive life pressures can create strong communities, friendships and Tribes.
Will Dean’s ‘It takes a Tribe’ is written more a business book although it does so with the colour of the authors life and the establishing of ‘Tougher Mudder’ phenomenon. I was a bit sceptical of the book as I felt wondered how much I could learn from an assault course event. The story line is compelling and documents the rise, challenges and failures in a fairly honest account of the growing a single event to the point where over 2 million people have participated.
Its easy to believe that this happens through luck or just hard graft (both of which help) but where the book is more interesting is the thinking about the core of the organisation and the establishing, maintaining and growing a Tribe. Getting to the levels the Tougher Mudder reached could only be done by looking at all components from the culture of the organisation, the design and ethos of the event and digging deep into human psyche and challenging the winner take all ethos.
As a Harvard Business graduate (something he is fairly critical of) Will had the constructs, tools and case-studies to seek relentless improve from constant questioning (the 5 Whys?), establishing a manifesto, listening to the community, creating authenticity and harnessing the story telling power potential.
Although Tougher Mudder is a business model (initially highly profitable), to the community it’s a way of life, an ethos and for some a life changing movement. The movement plugs deep into an understanding of people needs to belong and achieving more by winning with others than solo runs.
Although the motivation of the community with earned head bands seem a bit gimmicky to have an impact they worked but the notion of people tattooing your brand on their body is an even greater impetus to stay true to your values.
Will Dean also put some meat on business concepts (through his own stories) on areas like leadership (delegation and permission to fail), fostering and maintaining an strong internal culture, the innovation process and dealing with failure.
Community is a widely abused term and not all organisations will have the extremes that Tougher Mudder has but the overriding obvious aspect that makes it so strong is that they continually meet their community at the events and have woven them into the fabric. Having a strong online only community is essential to communication/logistic but is not enough.
One of the mantra/rituals at the start of each event is a call on Tougher Mudders ‘When was the last time you did something new’, something I now ask myself daily.