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Introduction to tribal business

I had the opportunity to talk about “tribal” businesses at the ICT Kring conference in Delft, October 2013. Here is a summary of the talk.

Modern businesses are experimenting with new organizational structures where the focus is on communities instead of hierarchies… top-down governance is being replaced with cultures where employees are encouraged to self organize and become more adaptable.

Why is this being called a “tribal business” and what does it mean to grow a business in this way? How does working together like this motivate people to contribute more?

When we are happy at work, we are more motivated to engage and contribute! Many people don’t like their jobs, and because of this, many businesses fail to survive in changing environments. How can we make our businesses places where great things happen? Where we wake up in the morning and say “Let’s make the best everything!”


A community is a group of people who align around solving common problems. There are five main ingredients:

  1. Shared mission
  2. Playfulness
  3. Shared resources
  4. Connection
  5. Place

Online communities

Our communities / organizations are expanding and changing because of the new online capabilities.

For the worker, it’s an opportunity to work on really interesting technology and with people doing interesting things.

For the business:

  • No longer limited to the guy in the room.
  • You can get great people at a reduced rate, without it feeling like a reduced rate to them.
  • No need for a centralized headquarters! New businesses can be setup anywhere.
  • You can broaden the reach and quality of work better now than ever before.

Tribal businesses

The characteristics of a tribal business include:

  1. The business structure is organized as a network, not a hierarchy
  2. Leadership is based on giving the team autonomy, and not top-down command-and-control
  3. There is a willingness to run experiments all the time

By experimenting with organizing ourselves in a more tribal way, we will discover new methods of motivating ourselves and our employees. And that is how we can make our businesses places where great things happen.

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