I’m hoping that by now you’re already confused. Micro-tribe? Is that like a tribe but smaller? With a higher level of exclusivity, perhaps? Let’s talk.
Atoms. Protons, neutrons, and electrons. Still with me? If my 10th-grade-level chemistry is correct, I believe that the electrons are the real rock stars of an atom. Mad scientists and nuclear labs notwithstanding, chemical reactions tend to revolve around the movement of electrons. But electrons aren’t just free-floating fellows you can pick up off the sidewalk.
See, electrons need a home-base. They need a nucleus to hang out around, because the nucleus provides an atom its stability as a cohesive entity. As 90’s film enthusiasts might say, it’s the rug which ties the room together.
Back to Tribes
Back to tribes.
For a tribe to cohere as a unit, there needs to be a sense of central pull. Some core which attracts all of the free-floating individuals to remain in orbit. To be here rather than there.
On one level, the tribal core is a tribe’s leader. A figurehead is often at the center of a tribe, as the exemplar of the group’s values and unique cultural vibe.
But atomic nuclei rarely have only one composite part. Take oxygen. Eight protons and eight neutrons. Titanium? Twenty-two and twenty-six. Rarely is the core smaller than a large handful of pieces, and the number of electrons an atom can attract generally corresponds to the size of its core.
The idea is to assemble a stable core, instead of having just a single leader.
Take as an example the students of Rabbi Moses Haim Luzzato, the Ramchal, perhaps the greatest Jewish mystic of the last four centuries. Ramchal, rather than opening a public seminary for gathering students, kept his followers to but a handful at a time. Each disciple was carefully chosen, and the number of students present at a given time was carefully measured to correspond to the Kabbalistic number system. The group was not merely a random collective, but a selection of individuals who constituted a full group – a partzuf, in Kabbalistic jargon. A complete unit which covers all its bases.
Wisdom Tribe CEO Yaakov Lehman made a comment to me last week based on a remark his mentor made. Jews pray in groups – ten adult men, minimum. Which seems a bit odd; if Jews are so into community and national oneness, why break off groups of ten gents and label them as apart from the rest? As their own group?
Micro-tribes are the answer.
Micro-Tribes are the Answer
If you don’t have a stable and sizable core, your electrons will be insufficiently drawn to the center. If the nucleus is made of awkward, non-complementary proportions, the cloud of rock star electrons won’t assemble correctly, because there won’t be a strong sense of direction and proportion.
Certainly, there’s massive validity to this mystical angle. In order for a broader network to have balance and cohesion, there needs to be a complete partzuf involved. It unifies the surrounding elements into a solid whole.
But there’s more. Yaakov took the opportunity to riff on his idea of ‘social capital,’ a concept built on the conceptualization of trust as a valuable resource. What makes a society flourish, principally, is the social capital at its core. And even a small central hub of social capital can create ripples throughout broader populations.
In economics, these benefits are referred to as ‘positive externalities,’ meaning those secondary benefits which form the ripples which elevate a group. Trust, in our case, is a massive positive externality. The sense of genuineness and healthy communication fostered between members of a tribe rubs off into members’ interactions with non-tribespeople. A smile reaped from a tribal gathering has positive effects on the taxi driver who takes you home, which makes him treat his next customer with more trust and warmth, and the ripples keep moving outward.
And it all starts from the core.
To quote Yaakov: “Building a tribe is about building a network of people and organizations which are aligned and have a healthy relationship, because it’s based on honesty, real value, communication, and in the end it’s a win-win. That’s social capital.”
Going forward, this sort of thinking is beginning to influence the kinds of clients we at Wisdom Tribe (specifically through our creative branding agency, Tribe Creative) on board. Instead of looking for relationships which just max out cash-wise, we’re looking for core players, for entities which can help solidify our central core.
Be on the lookout for these guys – we’re on their tail.