Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book Review: Tribes, by Seth Godin

Just finished reading Seth Godin's book, Tribes.  Mr. Godin is a fantastic speaker and a wealth of ideas, so I was pretty eager to read this book.

First, what is a tribe?  "A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leaders, and connected to an idea."

Pop Business Philosophy
I get tired of the 'break all the rules' business philosophy.  It's old.  It's not helpful.  I get what the author is saying - think critically about how things are being done, think outside the box, overcome fear of change.  The guys that say this usually knew what the rules are, knew which ones to keep and which ones to break.  We don't normally read books from the cemetery, right?  You aren't going to find the book 'I Broke All the Rule: How I Crashed and Burned'.  Ah, but these pop business philosophies would say, 'that's your fear talking.'  And you see where this conversation is going: no where useful.  Take the book, Great by Choice, now there's a book with practical guidance and insight.

The book spends a lot of time dealing and challenging our fear for starting something new.  It reassures that we can start - do something.  It makes the point that we don't need to climb Mt. Everest at the first go, but we do need to act.  This is a great reminder: start something, do something.

I was surprised by how many references to religion were in the book.  The problem is that the book doesn't define it's terms, casting a very wide net as to what it means by religion to include formalized religion as well as corporate culture.  This too isn't useful.  Some of the greatest 'rule breakers' in history were from religions.  Abraham leaves rich community and goes to no where.  Jesus turns the leaders of that day, both religious and secular, on their heads.  Ditto Paul.  Martin Luther tweets his 99 thesis on the church door and starts the reformation.  The puritans, a group of counter cultural young people hire a ship and start a different kind of community in a place no one knows anything about.  Now THAT's some serious rule breaking.  Each of these people or groups had a hugely profound impact for centuries.  Godin doesn't differentiate between effective and ineffective religion - just throws them all into the same box, but even religions differentiate in their own doctrines what constitutes good vs. bad religion.  I get it: any system of rules that people blindly follow is bad, but to use 'religion' that broadly isn't accurate, isn't helpful, and subtly fosters a new racism.

Service & Leadership
The book makes a really big deal out of leadership serving - that was very refreshing to hear.  The leader of a tribe needs to think about how to give to that tribe and how to let the tribe give to each other. Very powerful.  I'm going to be giving a lecture this summer and it got me thinking: how can I give to that group of students, other than just talking at them?  Something to think about.  Godin also makes a very strong case for you being a leader.  You don't need to be a national or international rock star, but you do count, you do have something to offer, so get off your butt and show some leadership!  He really makes the case that you can lead something.

Pg 103
This is probably the best, most detailed advice the book gives - get a copy of the book and copy that page!

Bottom line?  Not a great book, worth a quick read if you can get it for cheap.  Amazon has it used for under $4.  You should seriously consider the three points in the definition, and go show some leadership.