August 23, 2007

Self Actualization And Tribes

My inbox is full of excited colleagues getting revved-up for next month's conference in Las Vegas. The online "third" of the multichannel marketing world really seem to enjoy this annual opportunity to hear great speakers, to network with colleagues, to learn.

If only employees could get this excited about projects within their own company.

Somewhere during the past twelve years, the world of multichannel business changed.

In sports, it is the performance of "the team" that matters. Athletes strive to win the Super Bowl, or World Series. Everybody shares equally in such an accomplishment.

The accomplishment is analogous to something Maslow called "Self Actualization". You're not at the top of your game if you go to the All-Star game. You're at the top if your team wins the World Series.

In multichannel business, we're in the process of "joining tribes". You might be the e-mail director at a multichannel retailer. One might think your "tribe" includes the department you manage, or the executive team you support.

Increasingly, your "tribe" includes e-mail analysts, directors, and VPs at other companies. You look to these folks for affirmation.

Each tribe develops their own communication style, identifies what is important for that tribe.

If you're part of the e-mail tribe, the important things might be subject line testing, spam filters, html, Outlook 2007 rendering issues, segmentation, personalization, CheetahMail.

If you're part of the paid search tribe, the important topics might be branded vs. non-branded search terms, static urls, page rank, whitehat, keywords, RKG Group, Google, Yahoo!, MSN.

If you're part of the web analytics tribe, you might focus on tags, kpis, conversion rate, landing pages, unique visitors, bounce rates, Omniture, Coremetrics.

If you're part of the business intelligence tribe, you talk about SAS, Business Objects, Microstrategy, cubes, KPIs, lifetime value, regression models.

If you're part of the catalog tribe, you talk about matchbacks, DMPC, RFM, Response, AOS, Dollar per Book, USPS, digital printing, merge/purge, housefile names, Abacus and ChannelView, 38 pound paper, perfect bound vs. saddle-stitched.

Each tribe hosts their own conferences. Each tribe touts experts who are revered. Each tribe deals with controversy. Each tribe advances their own agenda for improving the sales of the businesses each tribe member represents.

Tribe members freely share trade secrets (even on public forums and blogs) that, if their companies knew they were sharing them, would provide grounds for dismissal.

Within the tribe, you feel loved, you feel welcomed. You exchange ideas, you learn. At conferences you go out for fancy dinners. Vendors host evening parties with free mixed drinks. You feel valued. You have a connection with "like-minded people". You give awards to those who excel at the work done within the tribe. There's recognition.

Compare all of that with what you deal with in your own company. When is the last time your company made you feel the way your tribe makes you feel? Did you formally celebrate last year's scintillating 9.4% record pre-tax profit performance? Did you receive a promotion, or recognition? Or did you get a 3% cost of living increase?

Boomers dominate Director, VP, and C-Level jobs. They aren't going anywhere anytime soon. As a charter member of Gen-X, I've repeatedly observed how my generation is stuck in idle. Companies struggle to provide a reward structure for employees trapped behind tenured leaders.

I've watched with curiosity as my generation (and folks from other generations, too) splintered into these tribes.

I've also watched with curiosity when individual members of these tribes gather in the same conference room within a brand --- all speaking different languages, nobody able to truly understand each other. A C-Level executive recently said to me that "I don't understand a word any of these people are saying".

Within each individual tribe, the C-Level executive would be the problem ... "s/he doesn't get it".

For the tribe members, this splintering offers opportunities to achieve professional self actualization.

What impact does this have on the businesses tribe members support? How can a brand meet the needs of an individual employee choosing to express himself/herself through a tribe? Or does it even matter anymore?

And think about the leadership opportunities for the individual who can unite all these tribe members, creating a high-functioning team within a business? That's where the real opportunity exists.

Why can't that person be you?


  1. I love how you outline the terminology used by the different "tribes." Might also be useful to explore their reading lists, best blogs, mailing lists, conferences, etc. This post could be the seed of a way useful resource that could help the different tribes cross-pollinate!

  2. Interesting idea, I'll think about how something like that might get put together. Good recommendation!


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