The book-of-the-month in the testing community right now seems to be Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I’m sure I’ll read it eventually, but a more important book I think was released around the same time. That book is Tribes by Seth Godin.
As you might tell from my recent burst of leadership and marketing related posted, I think to have the most career success possible you need to step up and assume a leadership role. This does not mean leaving your day-to-day testing position for the meetings and bureaucracy of management, but one of community, group or tribal leadership.
A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.
The key part of that definition is ‘connected to a leader’. People connected to an idea is not enough, and that is where Tribes comes in. Tribes lays out the why and to a certain degree the how of tribe leadership. There are no ‘chapters’ per se, but around 115 or so little topics stung together to form a nice narrative which make it great commuting reading or for taking a break between tasks. Here is a sample of those headings
- Why should you lead? And why now?
- Fear of failure is overrated
- Participating Isn’t Leading
- The difference between things that happen to you and things you do
- The elements of leadership
- Positive deviants
Each of those topics has one or two great points about leadership in it, often backed up with a quick story, often from Seth’s own experience. This humanizes the topic in way fictional cases cannot.
I liked Tribes. A lot.
I learn something from every book I read, though most of the time it is just ‘stuff’ that I tuck away for later use. Tribes had the wheels of my brain were whirling the whole time while I was reading it. What tribes (vs. groups) do I belong to? Who are their leaders? Is the leader who I think it is? Am I a tribe leader? Am I supposed to be? I self-identify with the Context-Driven school of testing, though it could quite easily be relabeled as a tribe as it has all three parts of one. I think this blog and its readership might also be a tribe to a certain degree; one whose leadership I inherited through creation. Now to lead it. What other groups do I know that could transform into tribes with some leadership? Is my role to assume that leadership, or help others to do so?
My only complaint with Tribes is the format, as usual. At 21.2 x 13.2 x 1.2 cm and only 150 pages, it is a small book but the decided to make it a hardcover with dust jacket. I understand there is a certain prestige of hardcover over softcover, but that no doubt adds to the cost. Amazon is selling it for $11.99 right now, but would likely have it below the magic $10 threshold in a different format.
And of course, a book about tribes wouldn’t be complete without a tribe behind it. This tribe has been, and continues to be a busy one. First there was the Tribes Casebook which was followed up by the Tribes Q & A ebook. Both of these nicely compliment the book and further illustrates the power of a tribe.
Tribes is a big book packed in a small format and absolutely deserves a place in your bookshelf. It could also have been the most-important but overlooked non-testing book for testers of 2008.