A Word About Tribes

It’s been said these days we’re the tribal people (when were we not?). Consequently, what we do and why we do it is becoming of increasing interest to business and design. The individual is no longer the unit of analysis, it is the system of interactions and how subtleties of belief and practice shape our worldview, and thus our acts of shopping, use and practice.

How  do doctors react to a mountain of emails when they have traditionally been disinclined to use it due to time constraints? Why do emerging middle class cell phone users in China take their phone to the temple to be blessed?  And which temples do they visit? How we do the shopping for produce and why is it different than shopping for snacks? How do parents use a hardware store to teach their children about life? Why do people seek out the location of a Trader Joe’s when looking for a new house?

It isn’t enough to draw conclusions based on the numbers. Those conclusions are only half truths at best. We often assume the individual is the key to understanding and influencing behavior, but it isn’t. We are members in “tribes,” just as we have always been and it is the tribe that matters most.  It’s the connections we have with each other, the social constructs, that are important.




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