Tribal Innovation: Getting beyond failure

What is failure?  Is it the inability to do something? Is it doing something the wrong way?  Or is it both?  Or is it something completely different?

What if some of our so called “failures” occur in part because our desire for collaboration is greater than our desire to sucumb to the present organizational structure of our work and the world which we inhabit?

What if some of our “failures” are merely “nonperformances” orchestrated by our subconscious in an attempt to overthrow the tyranny of the “Success=Independence” equation?

What if we need collaboration with members of our tribe to be successful and we are just not finding it? This week I watched a TED talk called ” Brilliant Together ”  shared by Tracy Vetting Wolf which led me in part to the above series of questions.


Seth Godin‘s elaboration on our need to find our own unique tribes in Tribes has proven useful to me in thinking about failure and its relationship to collaboration.  In addition, he also has a great TED talk called the “The Tribes We Lead” about leading and connecting people and their ideas.  One of his key idea is that we should identify something we want to change in the world and then step up to the leadership of setting out to change it by assembling tribes that spread the idea.  Subsequently, it becomes far bigger than ourselves; it becomes a movement. Some people may call it heresy.   Others call it Tribal Innovation!

I put together this Tapestry  which highlights a few of the key points of Seth Godin’s talk (the idea to use this digital tool was originally shared me by Cathleen Nardi) :

Screen shot 2013-09-27 at 1.17.33 PM

This week, in CICMOOC, many are posting their project proposals, while others are posting their best and worst collaborations. Reading about some of these projects is inspiring.  However, reading about some of the best and worst collaborations has made me wonder if there is a recipe for success or disaster.  I can’t help but notice that some of the worst collaborations involve power grabbing, unspoken tensions or feelings, and lack of positive group dynamics while the best of course involve the opposite.  I am grateful for all of these posts that give us the opportunity to reflect on other people’s stories and experiences as we begin to collaborate with others.

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4 Responses to Tribal Innovation: Getting beyond failure

  1. Maureen, thanks for the Seth Godin info. I too have been exploring the idea that we often equate creativity as an individual trait when in reality it is much more the result of a lot of social processes. We need others perspectives, questions, challenges, tensions, input, feedback and receptivity in order to come to any creative junction. Here I wonder if we not only need tribes that are supportive and nurturing, but do we also need some of that less pleasant sort of interactions. I’ve grown most through adverse situations. Then again, that may just be me.

    • mtmaher says:

      Absolutely Felicia. Thanks for reminding me that adversity is the best teacher. All too often I try to avoid conflict/those less pleasant interactions, but I am working on being bolder/ more confrontational when necessary.

  2. I am convinced that working together collaboratively is human nature. Where did the construct success=independence originate? It seems to me that we are stronger because of our collaborations. We are more creative, because we are able to build ideas upon one another (of course Steve Jobs would argue with this). How can we encourage creative collaboration so that it becomes part of our culture? More questions….thank you for a stimulating post. Glad that you tried Tapestry. I like the format.

    • mtmaher says:

      Indeed, everything in ecology mirrors that collaboration going on in the world. Hopefully, we humans are taking a turn and getting back in touch with it partially because of technological advances as well as our overwhelming need for it at a global level. Thanks for being a part of that movement.

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