Interestingly enough, the topic of digitally-enabled tribalism came up at the office yesterday. We were having a meeting on a mostly unrelated subject when we started talking about what it meant to be a Social Enterprise. I brought up the concept of how digital media and platforms were altering the way we form social structures and form tribal cultures across distance and time, my coworker said that he believed that the same thing was happening (albeit more slowly) within large organizations.
It was his view that this is the natural next evolution of operational models for companies. At first, you had the hierarchical org-chart structure of the traditional business model. Who you reported to was more important than who you were working with. Next, organizations aligned around processes. In this structure, what you were doing was more important than chain of command concerns. This made organizations more efficient, effective and delivered new value. As a result, more and more organizations began operating this way.
Now, as a result of new modes of interaction and new channels of communication, you have structures that form organically within an organization. You have your resources forming bonds around areas of expertise, initiatives, and new ideas. In addition, people inside your organization are forming new kinds of relationships with people outside your organization. The lines of demarcation between departments, employee roles, and even inside and outside your firm are blurring. More and more, corporate structures will become federations of Tribes of Expertise.
Rather than fight this next phase of operational evolution, companies should be looking to embrace it. Just like process-orientation delivered value beyond traditional hierarchical structures, these new tribal relationships are where the new value will be delivered.