A newspaper that only had a few dozen employees would be doing great today. But they have hundreds or thousands of employees because that was an appropriate scale twenty years ago. When I started my first web combany fifteen years ago, the idea that you could be successful with six or ten employees was crazy, but today many of the most successful companies have not many more than that. That’s 15,000 fewer employees than eBay has.
It’s tempting to get bigger. But is bigger better? In many cases, it’s worse, particularly when you can leverage reliable systems that are cheaper and faster and more stable in the outside world. If you can make your product better by assembling it yourself, you should. But if that action makes it worse, why do it?
Is your organization too big? Too small? Just right?
“Management often works to maintain the status quo, to deliver average products to average people. In a stable environment, this is exactly the right strategy. Build reliability and predictability, cut costs, and make a profit.
Traditional marketing, the marketing of push, understands this. The most stable thing to do is push a standard product to a standard audience and succeed with discounts or distribution.
But for tribes, average can mean mediocre…
The end result of this is that many people spend all day trying to defend what they do, trying to sell what they’ve always sold, and trying to prevent their organizations from being devoured by the forces of the new. It must be wearing them out. Defending mediocrity is exhausting.”–Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
“We live in a world where we have the leverage to make things happen, the desire to do work we believe in, and a marketplace that is begging us to be remarkable. And yet, in the middle of these changes, we still get stuck.
Stuck following archaic rules.
Stuck in industries that not only avoid change but actively fight it.
Stuck in fear of what our boss will say, stuck because we’re afraid we’ll get into trouble.
Most of all, we’re stuck acting like managers or employees, instead of like the leaders we could become. We’re embracing a factory instead of a tribe.”—Seth Godin: Tribes, We Need You to Lead Us
I am the very recent recipient of a copy of Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, the newest book by Seth Godin, a rather outspoken and important voice in marketing, specifically in social and “permission” marketing. Over the past couple of months, I have been participating in an online community based around the premise of this book: the Internet has torn down the physical and spatial walls that used to impede the ability of people to band together under a common cause and with common interests.
Now, no such problem exists. The freedom of information and the ability of people to find each other and communicate with each other is now at a level unsurpassed in human history—and it’s only becoming even more so with each passing day.
The thing about people who share opinions and who share interests is that they are in desperate need of leadership. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t (and almost never do) sit at the top of the org chart. They don’t protect the status quo, but are always moving; they are always shifting and changing to adapt to their “tribe” and to the changes that await them. Leaders don’t ask if obedience is any good, nor do they obey without question; leaders do what they need to do.
I lead a tribe in my life. It is small, not very influential, and I will gain little to no notoriety for it, but the tribe needs me and I need the tribe.
Over the next few weeks, I will be pulling relevant quotes from the book and posting them to the site, so you’ll be seeing a larger percentage than usual of Seth Godin’s name in the citation. If you like what you see, and you think Tribes looks like an interesting buy, then by all means, grab yourself a copy of the book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Do you have a tribe?