Tribes (Book Review & Summary)

After on and off reading of this book for about six months, I finally got around to finishing Tribes by Seth Godin. The book was a gift from my CIO for my involvement in a collaboration initiative at work. The following is my brief review and notes from the book.


The tag line for the book is “we need you to lead us”, and this essentially is the theme of the book. The book reinforces the idea that in this internet age, anybody can (and should) be a leader and anybody can make a living doing things that they love. Furthermore, it highlights that challenging the status quo is okay and that the traditional factory management approaches are dead. It is an easy read and uses a number of examples throughout the book to reinforce the ideas being presented. For the most part, it was common sense to me, but it served as an encouragement and reinforcement to the ideas that I already believe in. This book is best passed on to colleagues who need that push over the edge to challenging the norms in the workplace.

Overall it was an easy, entertaining read and I recommend it to anyone who needs reinforcement or encouragement to lead change.


Here are my key notes from the book:

  • a tribe is a shared interest and way to communicate
  • everyone is a leader
  • move from being stuck embracing a factory instead of a tribe and acting like managers and employees and not leaders
  • heretics are the new leaders, challenging the status quo
  • leaders have followers, managers have employees
  • leading from the bottom (with a newsletter) – the story of how Seth in the mid-1980’s took a small team with a difficult challenge, and how twice a week he sent a newsletter to all of the employees in the company detailing the team and their good work. Over time a number of people transferred or moonlighted on the project to be be part of the journey, and years later people still talk about the project. The moral of the story is leading, not managing.
  • factories are efficient and stable, but nobody in factories make a difference. Over time, factories have become less stable, nor are they the illusion of a dream job.
  • beware of the unicorn in the balloon factory
  • a remarkable product or service is like a purple cow (brown cows are boring, purple cows are worth mentioning). Why is your team not producing more purple cows?
  • good leaders back off and lead the tribe. This is different to doing nothing. Leadership is a choice to not do anything. Lean in, back off, but don’t do nothing.
  • change needs belief. Change is not made by asking permission, it is made by asking forgiveness later.
  • sheepwalking – hiring obedient people for brain-dead jobs and raising fear to keep them in line. Rather, hire amazing people and give them freedom to do amazing stuff.
  • thermometers reveal something is broken, thermostats are indicators to keep us in sync with the outside world. Thermometers are more valuable than thermostats and very organisation needs at least one.
  • creating a micromovement: 1) publish a manifesto; 2) make it easy for followers to connect with you; 3) make it easy for followers to connect with another; 4) money is not the point; and 5) track progress. The principles are: 1) transparency; 2) movement is bigger than you; 3) grow to thrive; 4) compare to status quo or push in a different direction; 5) exclude outsiders; and 6) build followers up rather than tear others down
  • be willing to be wrong rather than avoiding being wrong, the secret of leadership is to do what you believe in, paint a picture of the future and go there
  • “no” is not the enemy, it is “not yet”, because “not yet” is safe, Change never fails because it is early, it almost always fails because it is too late
  • Reagans secret – listen, value what you hear, and make a decision even if it contradicts the people you are listening to. People want to know they have been heard
  • The Simpsons Movie – Matt Groening resisted product placement, which delayed the project but would have ruined it. Compromise can expedite, but can also ruin.

One thought on “Tribes (Book Review & Summary)

  1. Pingback: Twitter Summary April 2010 « CDS 43

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