Six Realities about our current era – drawn from Penn (Microtrends), Luntz (What Americans Really Want), and Godin (Tribes)

I’m speaking at the Nonprofit Organizations Institute for the University of Texas School of Law Continuing Legal Education. (No, I am not an attorney).  My assignment: American Wants and Identities:  Thoughts for the Corporate and Nonprofit Sectors. I am pulling together key thoughts from two books,

Mark Penn, author of Microtrends

Microtrends:  The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes by Mark J. Penn and What Americans REALLY WANT…REALLY: The Truth about our Hopes, Dreams, and Fears by Frank Luntz.  Both Penn and Luntz are pollsters/political strategists, on opposite ends of the political spectrum – Luntz is Republican, a frequent contributor to Fox News, and Penn worked on the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign, and coined the phrase “soccer moms.”  They have both generated controversy, but they both genuinely have their fingers on the pulse of “what Americans want” and “what Americans are like.”

Frank Luntz, author of What Americans Really Want, Really

And what we are like is this:  we are segmenting into narrower and narrower groupings.  We are all, in one way or another, (to borrow from Seth Godin) seeking to “find our tribe.” Here’s a key quote from the Penn book:

All these people out there living a more single, independent life are slivering America into hundreds of small niches.   (The number of households in America has exploded, even though population growth has slowed dramatically).

This book is about the niching of America.  How there is no One America anymore, or Two, or Three, or Eight.  In fact, there are hundreds of Americas, hundreds of new niches made up of people drawn together by common interests.

I have added my own conclusions at the end of this amalgamated presentation.  I arrived at these six as I re-immersed myself into these books.  Here they are:

1)  People are getting together – in many more ways – than ever before. And if you don’t make room for “me,” you lose “me.”  And you have to “make room for me” on “my terms,” not “your terms.”
2)  People want a life with no hassles – in their tribe, in their work life, in any part of their life. No hassles.  None!  Not any hassles!  People don’t want hassles!  And groups/tribes have to make sure that such groups are hassle-free.

• all jobs are customer service jobs; all organizations are customer service organizations; all customer service is about no hassles!  PEOPLE DO NOT WANT ANY HASSLES!

3)   The search for meaning in work is ongoing – and important. But meaning includes belonging, the ability to keep growing, the embrace of challenge, and the awareness that helping people really does bring meaning.
4)  The segmenting will continue, and become ever more refined/ever more “micro.” It will shape where we work, where we live, the people we hang out with – and what we do with our spare time, our spare money, our passion, and our “cause” energy.
5)  People who are alike will find each other – and technology will accelerate this, probably provide the primary means for the segmenting of the groups/teams/tribes.  And the “are alike” differentiators will become increasingly “micro.”
6)  Our tribes will change. And loyalty – to a company, to a job, to a cause, to any tribe – can be very fleeting.  Loyalty has to be earned, and re-earned, over and over again.

These are my six.  You might have others.  But I think these capture our era pretty well.


You can purchase my synopsis of the Penn book, Microtrends, with audio + handout, from our companion web site  The Luntz synopsis should be available at the same site soon.

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