In 2009, best selling author and management consultant David Logan, Phd. gave one of the best TEDx Talks on leadership ever. Today, Ignitia reviews the key points from Mr. Logan’s speech.

Tribes Are Everywhere

Mr. Logan began his talks by proposing the question: how do we create world-shattering innovation? In order to answer this question, Mr. Logan began by relating a story about that year’s Super Bowl. According to Mr. Logan, where Super Bowl parties formed, so too did tribes. These tribes which Mr. Logan describes as about 20-150 people, are the structures in which all of our work gets done. However, according to Mr. Logan, such tribes account for more than just work. According to Mr. Logan, it is within these tribes which societies get built and important things happen.

What Separates Tribes is Their Culture

According to Mr. Logan, this thinking allowed his team to predict the surprise election of Barrack Obama at a time where it seemed Hillary Clinton was certain to receive the Democratic nomination. According to Mr. Logan, the role great tribal leaders play is to find a person from one tribe and introduce them to a member of a separate tribe. According to Mr. Logan, people have always formed tribes, and always will form tribes, but not all tribes are the same, and what makes the difference is the culture.

Stage 1 Tribes – Loners

According to Mr. Logan, there are 5 stages of tribe. Stage 1 is where people systematically sever relationships from functional tribes and then pool together with people who think like they do. This is the culture of gangs and prisons. According to Mr. Logan Stage 1 says in effect, ‘Life sucks.’ According to Mr. Logan, people behave in the same way as they see the world. So, if people viewed the world as ‘life sucks’ then they too will act accordingly. This is what he calls ‘despairing hostility’ and says these types of people will do whatever it takes to survive, even if that means undermining other people.

Stage 2 Tribes – The Complainers

According to Mr. Logan, a Stage 2 tribe is a tribe where people complain about being in it. According to Mr. Logan, in a Stage 2 culture people say ‘my life sucks because I’m here’ and as such very little innovation or good work actually gets done. As an example, Mr. Logan points to the DMV.

Stage 3 Tribes – The Place Most People Get Stuck

According to Mr. Logan, Stage 3 cultures are where many of us move, park, and stay. According to Mr. Logan, people in a Stage 3 culture say ‘I’m great, and you’re not.’ Mr. Logan says when a whole group of people have the attitude of ‘I’m great and you’re not, and I’m going to find a way to compete with you to come out on top’ little true innovation happens. According to Mr. Logan, Stage 3 cultures often emerge where really smart and successful people show up. As an example, Mr. Logan points to a scenario where three doctors meet in an elevator and all boast about their accomplishments, attempting to outdo the others.

Stage 4 Tribes – The Birthplace of Innovation

According to Mr. Logan, the greatest challenge we face in innovation is moving from Stage 3 to Stage 4. As an example of a Stage 4 company, Mr. Logan plays a video of the office of Zappos. The office has a Christmas tree in the lobby, even though it’s not Christmas time. There is a Dance Dance Revolution video game there. When they walk through the call center, people applaud them for no reason other than they’re happy and excited to be at work. According to Mr. Logan, the things people value at Zappos are fun and creativity. One of their company values is even, ‘Be a little bit weird.’

According to Mr. Logan, when individuals come together and find something that unites them greater than their individual competence, then something very important happens. ‘The group gels and it changes from a group of highly motivated but fairly individually-centric people, into something larger, into a tribe that becomes aware of its own existence.’ According to Mr. Logan, Stage 4 tribes can do remarkable things, but we’re not at the top of the mountain yet. There is a another stage that’s even better. This is the Stage 5 tribe.

Stage 5 Tribes – Where Life is Great

According to Mr. Logan, the headline for the Stage 5 tribe is, ‘Life is Great’. As an example, Mr. Logan sites the Truth and Reconciliation meetings in South Africa for which Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Prize. According to Mr. Logan the only two values this tribe came together under were ‘Truth and Reconciliation’. According to Mr. Logan, because this tribe was united under only the noble causes of their values, what they accomplished was truly historic. According to Mr. Logan, the reason South Africa had not descended into an endless civil war like Rwanda was precisely because people like Desmond Tutu establish a Stage 5 tribe which brought the tribes of millions of people across South Africa together to unite them in one noble cause.

Speaking to All Peoples

According to Mr. Logan, when people learn of these stages of tribes, their obvious reaction is to want to jump right to studying a Stage 5 tribe where everyone says, ‘Life is Great’. However, According to Mr. Logan, there are several counter-intuitive findings from this research. The first can be high-lighted by the Declaration of Independence. Most assume the Declaration of Independence is a Stage 5 document guided only by our higher values of our unalienable rights. However, Mr. Logan asserts much of the document is written at a Stage 2 level, stating that ‘Life sucks because I live under a tyrant. We’re great, England’s not!’. According to Mr. Logan, great leaders must communicate with all levels of society, because people are able to only move to one level above or a below them at a time.

The 2% Who Change the World

According to Mr. Logan, about 2% of people live at Stage 1, about 25% live at Stage 2, 48% of working tribes exist at Stage 3 saying ‘I’m great, and you’re not.’, only about 22% of tribes are at Stage 4 saying ‘We’re great and our values unite us’, and only 2% of tribes make Stage 5. According to Mr. Logan, it is these 2% who change the world. As a result, again according to Mr. Logan, great leaders need to speak to all the level so you can touch every level of society. However, tribes can only hear one level above and below where they are. According to Mr. Logan, leaders nudge people within their tribe to go to the next level.

An Example of Moving Through the Ranks

According to Mr. Logan, his team’s goal is getting people in lower stages into new tribes and getting them connected. As an example, Mr. Logan points to an interview he did with the former mayor of San Francisco, Frank Jordan. As a child Mr. Jordan was living in a Stage 1 culture. That all changed when he joined the Boys and Girls Club of America and they helped him to connect to a new tribe. For Mr. Jordan, moving from just Stage 1 to Stage 2 was progress. However, according to Mr. Logan moving from Stage 3 to Stage 4 is the most difficult.

Creating the Leap from a Stage 3 to a Stage 4 Tribe

In order to achieve this Mr. Logan suggests not merely networking to extend our networks, but to introduce two strangers. According to Mr. Logan this is called forming a triadic relationship and people who build world-changing tribes do this–they extend the reach of their network. So, Mr. Logan suggests attempting to connect people who don’t know each other to something greater than themselves, and ultimately that adds to their values. But, how then do we go from Stage 4, which is great, to Stage 5?

How to Change the World

To conclude his speech, Mr. Logan points to the Gallup Polls, which was able to find a way to conduct the first-ever world poll. In order to do this, they needed to solve the problems of being able to poll populations of hard-to-reach people, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa or places without technology. However, they were able to do this and were able to complete the first-ever world poll. According to Mr. Logan, the findings found several things. First, it found that we’re all in tribes. And hopefully we’re extending the reach of the tribes we’re in. The big question however is, ‘What kind of an impact are the tribes you’re in making?’ To conclude, Mr. Logan asserts it is our responsibility to nudge the tribes we’re in forward, and he ends by posing the question to those present, ‘Will your tribes change the world?’