Business as the nexus for Tribalised Communities



Collecting points - The shared environment - Japan Inc. - Tribalised communities - The search for creativity - A pooling of agreements - Shared commitment - Metaphysical goals - Psychic sharing

But all for the love of the working
And each in his separate star
Shall draw the thing as he sees it
Kipling "L'Envoi"

The inner directed search arises from discontent of self or society. As the inner directed search secures new attitudes, individuals seek to change society to conform to these attitudes. They want an external society that has values matching their new internal values. The old realities, for example - God, King, and country - lose their potency. They still exert an influence over humanity and until new realities are established, with values reflective of the inner search, humankind lives in a state of transition.

Humankind does not willingly live in a nebulous state. There is a need for attachment to a group or cultural mileau that swiftly forces a temporary norm. Western society, as it changes, seizes on the `quick fix' or fads for societal cohesion. Fads, themselves, are an indication of a search.

The external search for a stable and life affirming society fuels a demand for a rallying point. These rallying points are organisations proclaiming one or more of the ideals of the inner directed search. The new organisations, to be successful, must become the collecting point for those ideals. They have to be the focus through which a group of individuals, forming part of the evolving thought wave, express their desires.

Collecting points

It is the appreciation of the strength of the spiritual quest that has made religious organisations the most successful collecting points for spiritual ideals. General Motors cannot be compared with the Roman Catholic Church in history, duration, and adherents.

With the search for personal authenticity exerting growing pressure, organisations acknowledging that search come to the fore. An organisation must make itself the focal point for a quest or mission and then erect a structure, an umbrella of mutual support, that allows individuals to collectivise their search for a wellspring. It must create, by its structure and processes, a group dynamism that advances, dramatically, individual desires - creating a highly synergistic `pull' that excites and motivates members.

This synergistic `pull' is the essence of companies that pursue a search for excellence. It has already been felt by many in EST, Lifespring, or their more conservative offspring. The pursuit of the high synergy feeling; being truthful to your own nature; being fully present in the moment; living life to the fullest; pouring yourself into something that you believe in and want to do; seeing yourself as a creator - is an extremely powerful experience. It breds a feeling that dynamic organisations must pursue as if it were the holy grail.

The shared environment

This holy grail is partly the acquiring of enhanced feelings of awareness and effectiveness nurtured in a `winning' environment. It is a collective extension of goal setting where success is optimised by a group committed to creating an environment of shared ownership in all the personal hopes, fears, fantasies, failures and triumphs of individual members and of the group. It is a gathering that commits each individual to a greater vision and a powerful allegiance.
The ecology movement and many of the diverse groups seeking a greater vision have been remiss in ignoring the experience of the business community. There is often a misplaced antagonism against business and failure to see the positive elements within the business community. Business may be the most effective vehicle for change. Many businesses are trying to form collective environments.

An example is the following comments about an American company:-
Lotus, a computer company,...has fostered a sense of family among its employees. From the beginning, for instance, there was a communal lunch catered by the company, a custom that continued until the company grew so large that it was no longer possible to fit a table big enough into the lunchroom.
But even now Lotus has a monthly meeting to which everyone who works in its Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters goes - about eight hundred of the eleven hundred employees worldwide. "At the meeting new employees are introduced, and we have a company show-and-tell. It's a town meeting atmosphere, where anyone can ask a question..."

"Lotus is not intentionally different from other companies, but more that most, we take issues of values and the quality of worklife seriously. Fairness and quality are ideas built into the warp and woof of our corporate culture."1

The spate of schools that teach inter-relationships in North American society is testimony to the need to share. They all speak powerfully of an exposed nerve in Western society that seeks a shared commitment, a need for new social groupings. The human potential movement unfortunately shares with the religious movements a tendency towards authoritarian structures. What is needed is the transfer of the relationship skills of the human potential movement to more democratic structures.

Part of the human potential movement are spiritual groups usually based on the teachings of a guru such as Stephen Gaskin who lives in Tennessee on `the Farm' with almost a thousand people. Authoritarian religious or spiritual organisations, dependent on a single person, do not necessarily encourage the search for personal solutions as too great an emphasis on one person or dogma restricts flexibility and innovation. Such groups do not possess superior organisational characteristics.

Economic groupings can be a more democratic and populist type of structure. They have also been extensively canvassed with reports, books, company statements and articles assessing the elements that contribute to successful organisational structures. A significant measure of superiority is the extent to which the structure reflects the needs of personal authenticity, sense of empowerment, growth, and attachment.

Japan Inc.

The economic groupings in the West, addressing the values of the inner search, have received strong impetus from the success of Japan Inc.

Japan Inc. has shown the Western world that the most efficient means of production is a combination of factors. It is more than combining people and industrial strategy to produce a car or a stereo. With Japan Inc. it is a combining to care for all Japanese simply because `they belong'. There is an initial `belonging' to the clan (now the industrial firm), and a secondary `belonging' to Japanese as a people. This is very encompassing. It would be stifling to the average Westerner but it does produce a strong allegiance.

The Japanese believe they are different from other people. Their culture carries with it a specific understanding or special concern for each other. The Japanese word for foreigner, "giajin", actually means "not one of us". It is a thought pattern that has produced an acceptance and understanding that all Japanese have the responsibility to perform their obligations for the greater good of all Japanese. They believe that individual, social, and economic activity, must benefit the people of Japan.

This sense of `belonging' in Japan has been wedded to a culture that emphasises inter-dependence in production. It springs from a rice culture where rivers swiftly descend from mountain to sea. It is not a flat land rice culture as in Thailand. To see the fields of rice as they descend step by step is to understand the inter-dependence of the culture. Each rice farmer must take the necessary water from a connecting aqueduct that is enough for his lands and no more.

There may have been twenty rice farmers irrigate their lands before him and maybe twenty rice farmers below him. If one takes too much, or breaks the banks of the aqueducts, he can cause disaster to all below him. This in-bred interdependence has its drawbacks in its unquestioning acquiescence to authority but its efficacy cannot be denied. This efficacy, without the acquiescence to authority, has to be transferred to the new culture. The betterment of humankind, not just the Japanese, must become the rationale for an effective social organisation.

Before Japan's opening by the Americans it had operated on what has been called a feudal system. It has been an unfortunate use of that term as Westerners have too easily been lead to believe that the Japanese system was as authoritative and domineering as the Western feudal system. While it is true that it was a pyramid with the Shogun at its head, there were many differences from the Western feudal system.

First, there was a great concern for what Westerners call `face'. This meant there was a continuous use of tact and courtesy within their society. The Shogun and every other person in the pyramid listened and consulted with their peers. The heads of the Japanese clans, the daimyo, consulted with the Shogun and matters of personal pride were carefully orchestrated so no one would lose `face'. There was a valuing of each person that was absent from the Western model.

Second, the warrior caste - the samurai, were the dominant caste and merchants deliberately built modest homes. If the merchants homes were too sumptuous the samurai were likely to invade the property and `liberate' prized assets. This meant that the acquisitiveness of the capitalists in the West is not present to the same extent in Japan. Even now there are no large tracts of exclusively rich homes in Japan. A very rich person in Japan is likely to have a carpenter for a neighbor. This forced levelling of material goods has meant that the class divisions of the West that causes so much discontent and envy are not a major problem in Japan. Muted envy of material prosperity is a factor that allowed a sense of belonging and intimacy to flourish.

The clans of Japan provided a community to their members that was all embracing and made them feel as if they were important and valued members of the community. Although the clans and the so-called feudal system have been swept away, the societal benefits of that system have been incorporated into their modern industrial state. Japanese businesspeople approach the West as if they belong to clans. They have a pride and elan in membership that makes their clans the world's most effective organisations.

The West has responded either with a big, inept, fumbling government, or individual acts, that cannot withstand their organisations. The West must look for organisational structures that work more effectively. It must respond to this challenge in new and different ways that brings the best of the East and the West in a new composite form. The race is to create a culture that has the cohesiveness of the East without its acquiescence to authority and the spirit of enquiry of the West without its heedless individual indulgence.

The tribalised community

The creation of this new culture revolves around societal organisations that are best thought of as tribal in the sense they care for everyone.

Tribal organisation has been the norm for humanity for more than one hundred thousand years. National and family organisation have been appropriate only for the last three thousand years.

Organisational structure within the emerging culture must meet the elements of self management, workplace democracy, personal accountability, and consensus decision making. It must also reflect the desires of personal authenticity that accompany the inner search.

This structure must allow a degree of autonomy that sustains self-responsibility within a grass roots democracy. Diversity must be allowed to flourish within the discipline imposed by the collectivised search for the wellspring; it does not become a mixed bag of disparate agendas. The other boundary for diversity is an elitism that insists on a purity of purpose and denies popular growth.

Organisations, as communities, are founded on the interplay between individuals. There are constant conflicts in human communication, but it is the way or process that is important. The organisation must continually seek to satisfy individual desires and the individual must accept that, as the conversation continues, she or he is part of a process towards a solution. If the conversation ends, so does the commitment to a collectivised search. It is not a simple solution - it has all the complexity of human nature.

This concept is a quantum leap away from the survival mode of earlier tribal societies. It is a choice made to follow interests with people whose patterns form a segment of society. It is not based on family, nationality or religion. It is a `gathering together' to enhance the collective will and spirit.

The concept already exists in organisations trying to exert beliefs about society or trying to make an impact on the world. It exists in the groupings that feed the hunger for a better world and return a sense of power, self worth, and importance to the individual.

Greenpeace, for example, a group committed to ecological sanity, is trying to make an impact on the world. It can agree that some members will go on a ship to where a nuclear blast is taking place. That act gives a sense of power. A member of the crew placed in this danger has commits to an act that makes her or him important. There is an obvious emotional involvement in belonging to this group.

Individual search for creativity.

Victor Frankl pointed out, that humans are dominated by a `will to meaning'. The individual who has a `will to meaning', sees work as more than a struggle for existence - it is an expression of creativity and purpose.

Corporations must have extrinsic values that fulfil the `will to meaning'. Money, alone, does not have the power to attract key people. An illustration is the famous line of Steve Jobs, founder and chairman of Apple Computers, when he was trying to woo John Sculley away from the presidency of Pepsi Cola. Jobs appealed to Sculley's `will to meaning' with the words, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want the chance to change the world?"

Business enterprises have, in general, failed to meet the need for a meaning to one's life. As Dr. William Pilder, the co-author of HOW TO FIND YOUR LIFE'S WORK, stated in the May, 1985 issue of the New Age Journal:
“(Corporations) have made it very difficult for the majority of employees to see the value of their contributions. Meaningful work is no longer a luxury. It has become a psychological necessity. Subsistence needs are now - with some grave exceptions, of course - taken care of by the structural aspects of our economy. This has caused the demand for actualisation - people wanting to know who they are and why they're here.”

Individuals want validation. They want to see their work as having some significance in the context of their lives. They want to be respected and needed as significant persons by a group. A tribalised community must have significance, external to itself, as the reason for its being.

A pooling of agreement

The start of a tribalised community is gathering people and obtaining their agreement on the outcomes desired. It is the most difficult and time consuming part of creating an effective organisation. A high level of trust and honesty is the forge on which the cohesiveness of any group must be hammered out. Every individual has to spend the time and energy clarifying their wellspring. They also have to be aware of the extent of their desire to participate in an organisational mission.

The primary concerns of all must be expressed and the goal agreed on. This is a time consuming process but it is the soil on which the mission grows. The deeper it is turned and the better it is weeded the greater will be the success of the mission. Agreement of values is the basis for the production of value.

A group, agreeing to band together, will create an organisation for a purpose. An example would be to certify that organic produce meets certain standards. All can likely agree that they will produce fruit and vegetables organically and that consumers will be assured that it is `organic'. When the group defines `organic' there will be a diversity of opinion. To some, it is a lifestyle, to others, it is a marketing tool. Some place emphasis on external action and others on the strength of internal convictions. Organisations must provide a balance so as to allow external and internal aims freedom of action. That balance in achieved by clarification of the mission.

With a clear purpose or goal in mind a well run organisation will be much more successful both in reaching goals and providing deep satisfaction for the members.

James Pryor, a business consultant in Vancouver, B.C. has admirably summed up this need. He states:

"I have worked with thousands of people inside and out of organisations and corporate structures. One thing stands out. Individuals and organisations that have a clear sense of what matters to them (a purpose) are much more successful both in reaching their financial objectives as well as achieving a deep satisfaction in their pursuit. They have created alignment between exterior activities and interior values."

It should be stressed that the tribalised community is a result of individuals deciding on a worthwhile goal and agreeing to act in concert. It is all too clear that an organisation that imposes the desires of an autocratic leader on its members will not be successful.

There is a belief that organisations are the antithesis of individual freedom. Tribalised communities are, however, an outgrowth of individual desire. It is a symbiotic relationship and the organisation is useful only where it enables members to co-operatively achieve their desires. It thrives only when it meets the needs of its members.

Participants in a successful organisation consciously share responsibility. All participants are personally responsible for a group consensus approach, self-management, and a pride in the inherent worth of the task. Willing and responsible involvement is a commitment by both individual and organisation on equal terms. A compact is created with a clarity of understanding as to rights and obligations; a covenant among voyagers as to where the ship is going and who will perform the tasks.

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous illustrates most aspects of these new tribal elements. There is a commitment to a mission - sobriety - a shared quest. Members join after a search that forces them to conclude that they are addicted and AA becomes the organisation of choice. They gain the sense of immediacy by being forced to declare that they are alcoholics. They use a process approach - one day at a time! Self-responsibility is found in the requirement that the alcoholics make restitution for the damage they have caused. The AA meetings promote interdependence. The step program inculcates goal directedness. As a result AA has made itself the natural focusing point for the external reality (goals) of millions of people.

Shared commitment

A vision pursued in a tribal manner rests on a belief that the pursuit is more effective if undertaken by a group. It also requires a commitment to empathise, respect, and inter-relate, with others. The indulgent individualism of the West has to give way to a cultivation of an intuitive awareness of feelings.

There is a clear distinction between collective endeavours such as an irrigation project and the tribalised communities. The difference is between choices made on the basis of collectively submitting to a structure out of a feared danger and acting out of a positive choice.

It is the way that is important, not the end. That is one of the hard truths of the age of relativity. It is also one of the individual strengths found in goal setting. The Western tradition of striving to reach the pinnacle of success means that acceptance of the `way' is especially difficult. Western culture is strongly attached to personal success and forgets to smell the flowers along the way. A tribalised community involves a person in an ongoing drama in which everyone has a part to play - it is life itself, not a means to an end.

The sharing of a vision with others breeds a deep caring for others who are bound by that vision. It is an empathy that may include not only employees but also customers, and instils an excessive caring about what is done and how it is done. Quad Graphics in the United States has described it as a trust in teamwork, (that together they will do better than as separate individuals) in responsibility, (that each will carry a fair share) and in productivity. Apple Computer states:

“... we are genuinely interested in solving customer problems and will not compromise our ethics or integrity in the name of profit.”

The pursuit of a shared vision is a rewarding experience in an atmosphere of mutual trust. Mutual trust is encouraged in a process of community building, open communication, upgrading skills, and the pursuit of excellence. These ideals are incorporated in the beliefs of Celestial Seasonings:

“We believe that our employees develop a commitment to excellence when they are directly involved in the management of their areas of responsibility. This team effort maximises quality results, minimises costs, and allows our employees the opportunity to have authorship and integrity in their accomplishments, as well as sharing in the financial rewards of their individual and team efforts.

We believe in hiring above-average people who are willing to work for excellent results. In exchange, we are committed to the development of our good people by identifying, cultivating, training, rewarding, retaining, and promoting those individuals who are committed to moving our organisation forward.

We believe in fostering an environment promoting creativity and encouraging possibility thinking throughout our organisation. We plan our work to be satisfying, productive, and challenging. As such, we support an atmosphere which encourages intelligent risk-taking without the fear of failure.”

An important element in the sharing of a vision is ownership, such as stock ownership, or through franchise or lease. The employee stock ownership plan is a common feature of many highly regarded companies such as Donnelly Mirrors, Apple Computers, and Quad Graphics Inc.. This feature should be duplicated in volunteer groups by any method that bestows ownership, however small. Business has the obvious advantage as physical ownership is easily given where there is a physical product to be shared.

Modern society has lost this sense of sharing as the size of the group steadily increased. The size has gone from tribe to confederacy of tribes, to kingdoms, to nations, to empires, to international alliances. We now live in a century that has seen the European Common Market come into being and the Free Trade agreement between the United States and Canada. It is a century that has divided the world into blocs, such as N.A.T.O., the O.A.S., O.P.E.C. and the O.A.U.(the African nations). China and India are so huge that they can be considered as a bloc. They are so huge that it is difficult for individuals to identify to which group they belong. Naturally, there is a turning away to a shared social, spiritual, and emotional support from smaller groups such as the tribalised community.

Metaphysical goals

The pooling of agreement, and the shared commitment, is directed to a purpose deemed essential to the collective spirit. It has to provide what Paul Tillich has called "the courage to be" - the exercising of choice, and assumption of responsibility, in the face of the apparent meaningless of existence. The purpose gives meaning and life to existence.

The search for a new avocational ethic is a humanism which, though it is spiritual, does not seek a spiritual purpose in an abstruse god. An example is where the concern for the environment has meant that for many people the purpose of their life is the preservation of Nature. The Earth seen as a spiritual mother.

How one lives a life of service dedicated to humanity ranges from the life threatening experiences of a Greenpeace crew member to personal support for a close relative or friend. It is a spectrum. Corporations, in their search for shared values and commitment, provide a laboratory for comparison and learning.

At the most basic level corporations offer a straight exchange of money for labour. The commitment is to the earning of money in the assumption that the `unseen hand' will solve future problems. Dana Corporation of the U.S., for example states; "Remember our purpose - to earn money for our shareholders and increase the value of their investment." This shows a greater concern with survival. The Raychem Corporation of the U.S. goes beyond survival to express a concern for the intrinsic value of the product. Raychem's work environment states, "We believe that people work best in an atmosphere which is vigorous and stimulating rather than unnecessarily limiting. To provide for this atmosphere, we encourage each employee to become involved with the job, to find better ways of doing it, and to make his or her ideas heard."

The spectrum continues from the intrinsic values of growing through earnings, to the making of a better product, and then on to extrinsic values, such as the desire to promote the cultural integrity of the Spanish Basques. On the same level, but on a much larger scale, most Japanese corporations would see their purpose as supporting the flowering of Japanese culture. On the final or universal level there is the idea that what is produced is for the benefit of humanity or in the service of immanent spiritual values. The spectrum reinforces the idea of a hierarchy of motives for work as described by Madonna Kolhenschleg in her book KISS SLEEPING BEAUTY GOODBYE:

1) Subsistence, survival.
2) Human dignity, security.
3) Sense of duty, social approval.
4) Increased status, the good life.
5) Pleasure, significance- creative fulfilment.
6) Redemption of the social order- the ‘future’.2.

Profit is a weak lure for the best people. There is an increasing need for the excitement of creation as the reason for a corporation’s existence - feeling the excitement of creating a better adhesive or automobile. For example the desires of the computer community may have been summed up by Steve Jobs comment, “do you want to change the world?”. Their excitement of creating is found in the desire to change the world through the use of computers.

The attitudes of immediacy, seeing life as process, self responsibility, interdependence and goal seeking are found in organisations such as Apple Computers and their Apple Values –
“As a corporate citizen, we wish to be an economic, intellectual and social asset in communities where we operate.
We build products that extend human capability, freeing people from drudgery and helping them achieve more than they could do alone.
Individuals are encouraged to interact with all levels of management, sharing ideas and suggestions to improve Apple’s effectiveness and quality of life.
We support each other and share the victories and rewards together.
We recognise each person’s contribution that flow from high performance. We recognise also that rewards must by psychological as well as financial and strive for an atmosphere where each individual can share the adventures and excitement of working at Apple.”

Similar views are expressed in a statement by Celestial Seasonings –
“We believe that in order to make this world a better place in which to live, we must be totally dedicated to the endless quest for excellence in the important tasks in which we endeavour to accomplish.
We believe in marketing and selling healthful and naturally oriented products that nurture people’s bodies and uplift their souls. Our products must be superior in quality, a good value, beautifully artistic, and philosophically inspiring.”

The first management principle of Electro Scientific Industries sets out a search for significance as a primary mission.
-“the primary objective of making a contribution to society. Business can be one of the most effective vehicles through which man serves society. Thus, any service we perform should be oriented toward the public welfare, and any product we manufacture should be designed to be the best possible value in its class.”

The words from the previous paragraph, “the most effective vehicles through which man serves society” is a spiritual statement. How people serve society is an individual expression. To conceive that work can be a way of serving society is a grand step away from believing work to be simply a way of ‘subsistence, survival’- the lowest rung of the hierarchy of motives for work described by Madonna Kolhenschleg.

Psychic sharing

Physic sharing, the celebration of life within a community, reinforces allegiance and belief in the values of a community or organisation. Quad Graphics has a ‘Spring fling and Management Sneak’ where management sneak off for a day and the employees run the plant. This ‘Spring Fling’ reinforces shared beliefs in personal accountability and shared responsibility. Clothing or design is often used as a ritual for entrance into, or identification with, a community. Clothing, design, rituals, and shared meals, bring into play memories and expectations of tribal or community events. Events form a history through which members experience a shared psychic ownership.

Fostering psychic sharing in a business environment can be achieved by incorporating elected employees or members into decision making boards or directorships. Seymour Speciality Wire Co. in Connecticut was facing closure when it was bought by its employees. To give a sense of psychic sharing five employees were elected to the nine person board of directors. Thereafter the company continued in business and now promotes the shared decision making process as a necessary element in its vision.

The search for creativity, shared commitment, and psychic sharing are all illustrations of the forces ending survival attitudes. Survival attitudes are historical/emotional feelings and beliefs that are no longer a reality in the Western world. To believe and fear that one’s personal survival is at stake in everyday matters does not have validity in a culture that has not had starvation within its borders for many years. It is apparent to most Westerners that we can feed our population and give everyone a reasonable standard of living.

The great discrepancies between what is possible and the inability of the present structure to provide a reasonable standard of living for all is not an acceptable political discussion at this time. It will become a political discussion as it becomes more apparent that the present structure cannot meet humankind’s deeper needs. As the old culture breaks up the new culture will seek to possess a sustainable level of consumerism and foster new attitudes towards work as service to society, rituals, and psychic ownership.

Mondragon and Japan are examples of how a workplace centred culture creates and perpetuates itself through psychic ownership and ritual. The both show that a sense of commitment and the accompanying interdependence arouses intense feelings of passion and energy. They show that successful business ventures become more humane and empathetic - where the workplace becomes the nexus for human desires. The workplace is likely to be the arena of interdependence through which humankind strives for social enlightenment.

1. P.85. The New Age Journal, April, 1986.
2. P.79. Kiss Sleeping Beauty Goodbye by Madonna Kolhenschleg.