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Tribal IQ and Social Media

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Paul Imre has thrown out the challenge: what is Tribal IQ?

Metrics gurus will ultimately want a set of numbers. This is a take influenced by corporate anthropology. I have lifted it almost entirely from a one-pager written by Dr Phil Baird, Vice President of United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota. With slight modifications, Phil Baird’s vision for his college fits almost exactly what we have been talking about:

What does it mean to provide communication infrastructure for a community, which is, in its barebones, exactly what social media does?

Mirror who we are

#1 Tribal IQ defines who we are: our past, our present and our future. We define our IQ ourselves and we recreate it everyday in what do, with each other, and people around us.

Support the everyday re-creation of our community

#2 A community manager is keenly aware of the way we recreate our culture on a daily basis. Our mission is to support our members as they regenerate our group through everyday activities

Recognize the competing definitions and internal dynamism of the community

#3 Sometimes our groups are complicated. Within one community, we may have multiple groups who have competing demands and between them add an invigorating tension.

Range of our challenge

Our groups might have a narrow or broad focus, be superficial or deep, and be short or long-lasting. The issues defining the group might be concrete and specific, such as supporting Obama for President, or they might be helping diffuse and long-standing such as communicating with local government through FixMyStreet.

Expansion of the role of IT & Geeks

In this year of 2008, the question many of us are asking is how we are using social media to support the needs of our community. IT experts are being drawn directly into the discussion of who is our community and what are its needs. We are drawn into the discussion about how our community functions, how it expresses itself, and how it recreates itself on a daily basis. And not least, how we facilitate our community’s activities, how we affect its internal functioning, and how we make it easier to fulfill its needs, including, the need to reflect on its needs and change the way members interact with each other and the outside world.

Moral challenges of community managers

As resources are always limited, we have to prioritize and help our members prioritize. We have to map out clearly what we will do and align our map with the wider map of the community’s needs. In this way we are drawn into the debates on management and governance within our community, our tribe.

Strategic work of community managers

We also need to address the challenges appearing on the 10, 5, 3 and 1 year horizons. One of the challenges of community regeneration is the arrival of ‘digital natives’. Every generation brings with it the challenge of incorporating new members and new ways. The generation joining the adult ranks of voters, workers and managers are digitally savvy and bring with them new skills, different attitudes and higher expectations. They will refresh our communities and highlight they way we interact, on-line and off-line, and the way construct our past, create our present and co-create our future. As Dr Phil Baird said in 2007, “What will their Tribal IQ bring to our Tribal College?”

The challenge is no longer for the community to understand IT. It is for IT to understand community

Social media is here, and IT has become communal. The challenge is no longer for the community to understand IT. It is for IT to understand community. I believe we will see joint careers in managing IT and sociology, anthropology, political science and psychology.

I like the 21st century! Comments?

Next social media camp is on July 5 2008 in London – follow the link for immediate registration, presentations, details, and so on.


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  1. So your 90% swarm test, “soccer + work” is an instant in time? Tells us where we are going, as the swarm has an identity and a focus. But what about the past? The strands have a value? Or do we only get a value once we have made the rope? More strands, thicker rope, more IQ? Or just an average? Or are the components summed up into a bigger number? When does the IQ think and therefore exist?

  2. scotchcart scotchcart

    3 points (I think).

    a. The rope is made in social media by repeated links. The rope thickens and thins with repeated interaction. Agreed.

    b. When do we think? It’s a process of ’emergence’ I think made possible at two levels. Everyone who gets messages within the swarm responds in their own way, like a bird in a flock. So the flock is emerging and swooping and doing whatever else it does as a result of individual responses. At the second level, the message board provides an instant sense of the pattern which allows another level of response. Its quick response rather than prolonged consideration.

    c. What about the past? I think this is an acute observation. In the soccer vs work example, we have a group gathered in a room for a conference. We are “new” as a group but we definitely have a past. A lot of social marketing seems to fail because it disregards the past – the equivalent of building a dam without researching the rainfall and runoff patterns. I thought we didn’t capitalise enough on the future at that conference. We built the dam, then we let the water out.

    Any good as a reply?

  3. Yes, good reply. I can only do questions 😉 Where do we go next? Issue debated, done and dusted?

  4. Jo Jo

    I am so glad you do questions.

    We are just beginning! Why do we pull the plug and let the water out of the dam at the end of a conference?

    I think social media gives us the tools to help communities communicate, focus, refocus, connect, . . . swoop and swerve like a flock of birds.

    We keep talking about ROI or value, but we keep letting the water out (mixing the metaphors but it works for me).

    My new phrase is “mashed inbound communication”. People are trying to use social media as outbound communication. Social media lets people talk to us. The potential is in how we listen, understand, respond.

    Why don’t we? It takes me days after a conference to sort out my notes, business cards, etc. The conference organizers are exhausted. Hence the usefulness of social media technology.

    Get the people who attended to sort it out! The conference builds social capital which you use to leverage you up to the next level etc. Still theoretical – I do have some practical ideas I want to test.

    How are you?

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