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Thursday, 10 September 2009

A Little Bit of Analogy is a Dangerous Thing......

"Since the beginning of time people have been forming groups in order to survive on earth. Not surprisingly research has shown that people are genetically programmed to form into groups to live, work and survive. The strongest and most powerful type of group is a tribe.

PEOPLE form tribes to gain a sense of identity and strength in a big, impersonal world according to management consultants Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright, authors of Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization.

By combining our collective experience with a sprinkling of research, The Alternative and Rambutan have developed insights and new practical models around a new phenomena we’re calling “New Brand Tribalism”.

We believe "New Brand Tribalism" is the next big idea for organisations looking to compete or indeed move to a higher level of productivity, passion and influence.

The existence of tribalism amongst organisations and consumers has become evident in the early years of the twenty first century!

We've looked at the emotional and psychological cohesion between the organisation, employees and
the customer and have some real life case studies that give us a guidepost, But how do leaders and communicators harness the power of their brands to become beacons of loyalty and belonging?"

Reference :

The ideas expressed are , if such a word exists, shudderable. What is potentially worse is that business school types are utilising ideas that true explorers, either geographic or conceptual, have developed or expounded, in their own work. Unfortunately, the concepts sketched out by Messrs Logan, King and Fisher-Wright are also worthy of closer examination. Equally unfortunately, the idea is not a lone one as the paper by Cleopatra Veloutsou and Lois Moutinho illustrates ( ref :, nor is the multi-disciplanrian methodology. The sacred study of anthropology - the pure field of research into how humans (usually 'others') live, relate, and why, and what meanings are derived through culture has had its arcane language, and beautiful diagrams of kinship relationships among the Nuer, usurped, applied and used for the heinous purpose of money making. In other words, anthropology has grown up and joined every other academic discipline and become, horribly, horribly, 'applied', whether the applicators know what they are doing or not.

I wish to be very clear here : I am decidely of the opinion that culture and shopping are not the same thing. This is my starting point. But I have decided to challenge this notion, and investigate the question further, mostly by asking a number of questions. For example, are the penis gourds of many New Guinean Highland peoples really just a different expression of the staff unifroms at MacDonalds - namely a convenient way of cementing a group identity? Or when an organisation issues a Mission Statement outlining it's core values such as Marks and Spencers' bullet point commitment to "Deliver outstanding bra fit service" is that really the same as Egyptian heiroglyphics - namely a statement of cultural values? Are groups of consumers really analogous to Amazonian tribespeople's - similarly economically endowed, approximately homogenous, self-defined human coalitions? The snob in me thinks not - I consider consumers and images of fat, stupid sheep living the 'Wal-Mart experience' spring to mind, BUT, I consider myself a cyclist, a musician, a hiker, a set-builder, and isnt that just the same thing?

I have not the answers to this tonight, but I will finish with one observation, (bearing in mind that this is not (yet) a properly argued anthropological treatise, but more a sketch pad) and that observation is as follows. The authors of the first quote stated that humans are genetically programmed to "form into groups in order to live, work and survive" At this stage I will propose that this statement is a vast oversimplification. Humans are undoubtedly social animals, hence group formation, but to extrapolate from that without distinguishing between groups formed from necessity (for example minimal community size necessary to hunt, gather, collect firewwod and build shelter) and groups formed, from choice, in the midst of plenty (for example whist drives, bowling clubs and football fans) is, to me, an analogy too far. And, without wishing to presuppose the conclusions I shall draw once I have completed my investigations on this crucial issue, such mistaken analogy making is a similar misue of anthropology to the misuse of evolutionary theories that followed the so-called Enlightenment.

On this subject, if anyone still reads this thing, opinions are solicited. Your author, regardless of whether opinions are provided or not, will press on with his research in the true anthropological tradition of having reached his conclusion before evidence - yea or nay- can be derived. Unfortunately, the subject will likely be revisited over the next few weeks.

1 comment:

William Large said...

Anything with evolution in the front of it, such as evolutionary psychology, sociology, anthropology is all complete and utter bollocks dressed up as science.