Tribal Knowledge – Is It Dead Or Alive In Your Marketing Efforts?

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Tribal knowledge is a term I heard a long ways back, forgot about it, and then got reconnected to it a couple of times in the past few months. Here’s how Wikipedia defines "tribal knowledge": "any unwritten information that is known within a tribe but often unknown outside of it."

All organizations have tribal knowledge, sadly most of it gets lost in individual emails, corporate boardrooms and other daily meetings. It’s the information everyone who works in the organization knows but rarely shares – the unspoken "way things are done." But, what happens when someone leaves or someone joins? How is tribal information passed down from business generation to business generation? Through intranets and wikis, corporate Blogs and more, we have all of the available tools to share and nurture tribal knowledge within organizations.

The first question is, are we doing that effectively? (sadly, I think we all know the answer to that).

The second question is this: in a Web 2.0 world – where Social Media enables us to trust Consumers are co-developers – how can we extend the concept of tribal knowledge?

I got pretty excited about the article, The Charms of Wikipedia, by Nicholson Barker, in The New York Review of Books (you can read my full Blog posting about it here: Wikipedia Is More Charming Than Ever). I think Marketers tend to forget that wikis – and the notion of opening up certain web pages for all to edit – can be one of the most powerful ideas in a Marketing world where brands are doing whatever they can to connect to their Consumers and empowering them to connect to one another as well.

I’m reminded of the Motorola Q Wiki, where the company posted the user manual for the Motorola Q in a wiki format, so that Consumers could connect, correct, update and share.

I love the idea of tribal knowledge even more when you layer on top of it the many tools and technologies that we all have at our disposal to make all of our lives easier and more engaging. It may not have the sex of an ad campaign, but it certainly holds the answer to many of the common questions we all hear about how Marketing can connect in a world where it seems increasingly more difficult to garner anyone’s attention.

Two concepts to meditate on: making your companies’ tribal knowledge accessible to all on your team, and them making the tribal knowledge of your brands, products and services flattened between your keepers of the brand, consumers and potential customers.

I also just noticed that John Moore from the amazing Blog, Brand Autopsy, has a book titled, Tribal Knowledge (I’m definitely going to pick it up).