This week I bring you a review of Tribes by Seth Godin, and I have to say I’m disappointed. Which is surprising. If you read my review of The Icarus Deception, you will know I’m a fan of Godin’s. He’s an excellent writer and equally inspirational speaker. I’ve read other books by him and follow his blog, so I’m very familiar with his style and stuff.
Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us is a book I was seriously looking forward to reading. Godin’s insights into tribes and being a leader? This had to be gold, surely? Well, not so much… especially if you follow his blog.
The Icarus Deception had the distinct feel of a fully realised concept, a book in the truest sense of the world, with a central concept and linear narrative. Tribes is a very different animal. I’d read many of the sections in it before, because they were Godin’s regurgitated blog posts. The common theme binding them together was indeed the subject of Tribes, but there was no unity, no order, no sense that he had taken all his thoughts on the subject and ordered them in a comprehensive theory. Rather, it felt like he’d taken what he’d already written, put it together in the order than made the most sense, and called it a book.
I’d have to systematically go through his whole blog to know exactly how much was existing content and how much was new, but well over half of it was not new to me. And while I read his blog regularly I do not read it frequently enough to suppose I’d already read everything he had to say, on any subject. Further to this, the book is flimsy. It’s a small book, with reasonably large print, and few pages (only 131). Consider that The Icarus Deception had 256 pages, and you begin to see my point. It’s half the length, and what length there is can’t be directly compared because the dimensions of the pages themselves are considerably smaller.
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda…
In short, Tribes lacks substance. It could have been a fantastic book from an excellent author. Unfortunately Godin seems to have fallen into one of the pit falls of publishing a Blog Book – a book comprised of existing blog posts on one topic. Rather than using his existing material as a solid first draft, and then expanding, editing, and revising it into a cohesive whole with a single thread, it appears to have been published pretty much as is.
This leads to a lot of repetition.
Think of how often you blog on a particular topic and have to say the same things, albeit with slightly different phrasing, over and again with each new post. It’s not sloppy writing when you’re blogging, it’s ensuring your audience knows what you’re talking about. They might not have read previous posts. They might not have read them recently. And the need for certain salient details are necessary in every post for the sake of clarity and flow. A book works very differently, because clarity and flow apply to the whole, not just the sum of its parts. The result of this is the impression that the book was cobbled together. And while each individual chapter has a lot of interesting and good information, it was (for me at least) overshadowed by the annoyance of having to read the same stuff over and over. Of not really having a single train of thought linking one chapter to the next.
Worse still, I didn’t feel the book lived up to its promise.
Consider this excerpt from the blurb:
There are tribes everywhere, all of them hungry for connection, meaning and change. And yet, too many people ignore the opportunity to lead, because they are “sheepwalking” their way through their lives and work, too afraid to question whether their compliance is doing them (or their company) any good. This book is for those who don’t want to be sheep and instead have a desire to do fresh and exciting work.
The impression is that the content will show you how and why you’re being a sheep. It will introduce you to a revolutionary new perspective. It will finally enable you to get your arse in gear and actually lead. To be the top dog, herding the sheep, rather than one of the flock. Had I not read his stuff before, I’d have got a lot more out of it. As it was, the repetitive nature of the book, the fact it was all so familiar to begin with, and the total lack of a cohesive argument, theory, call to action, or even a series of actionable steps in a plan of attack, left me disappointed.
If you’re unfamiliar with Godin’s work, it’s worth the read. But then again, so is his blog, and that’s free. I really struggle to find any discernible benefit to paying for the paperback. And I’m a self-confessed bibliophile!