BOOK REVIEW: Tribes by Seth Godin

Thanks to Erin Young for this review!

Erin’s Summary and Review of Tribes by Seth Godin

Disclaimer: Because I did not anticipate putting my talk into written form, the notes I took on the book did not specify which sentences were direct quotes. My apologies for not having them labeled.

Tribes is a short book about how and why you should be a leader to a tribe—a group of followers. The book is a quick read that isn’t organized by chapters or a systematic argument. Rather, it’s divided into short sections that read like little parcels of wisdom, motivation, and encouragement.

In the book, there is a story about how Seth worked at a software development company to create computer games. Three engineers were assigned to help him, but he knew he needed more. He started a newsletter that highlighted the work of every person involved with the products. He chronicled their quest, talking about their breakthrough ideas and the new things they were doing, and sent it out twice a week. More and more engineers joined his tribe, working on his project in their spare time. Before long, everyone in the department was either assigned to the project or moonlighting on it. These engineers joined the tribe because they wanted to be part of the journey, part of something that mattered. The newsletter spread the word, connected them, and cast the vision.

We can apply Seth’s principles to create tribes of our own.

First, we need to remember that because people want to be involved in something that matters, our writing needs to matter. We need to have something to offer people, and then tell them about it. This will unite our tribe and give it structure.

Second, we need to give our followers a way to connect—both with us and with each other. It needs to be easy for everyone to interact. Some possibilities might be email, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, newsletters, speaking engagements, interviews, contests, or discussions of issues raised in our writing. Or perhaps we can involve our tribe in our writing process by having them name characters, or suggest pets for them, or contribute in some other way.

Third, we have to find ways to track our progress, our journey. Seth’s newsletter did that week by week. People saw movement, caught the vision, and wanted to join. Perhaps we can chronicle what’s happening in our writing process, or in a book’s physical production—the edits, the galleys, the book cover, etc. Or maybe we can share success stories, or talk about what the tribe is doing to raise awareness of an issue, or to contribute to some need.

Lastly, we must be prepared to work with determination and diligence. Leadership requires extraordinary effort.

Tribes want leaders who:

*Are passionate and committed
*Are transparent
*Don’t water down the message by trying to please everyone
*Set out to give, not get

Overall, I found this book helpful and thought provoking. While I did not feel the need to purchase the book to add to my shelves, it was well worth the time to read. The library has several copies available.


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