More Cartels, Fewer Clubs

The difference between a club and a cartel appears to be a matter of semantics, but it’s a lot more than that. And the difference holds the secret to making a difference as a leader and communicator in the world.

Photo credit: Francisco Xavier Nieto (Creative Commons)

A club is a group with a shared interest. A cartel is an agreement among competitors. Clubs are about exclusion and competition. Cartels are about inclusion and collaboration.

Bipartisan politics is the product of club-based thinking. Wikipedia is more of a cartel. As the world of open source and disintermediation grows, we will most likely see more cartels and fewer clubs.

Why cartels are king

In a world where we have virtual access to everyone and everything, the leaders and organizations that are winning are the ones finding ways to collaborate with those they used to compete with.

Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane are doing this with church youth groups. Instead of competing with large programs with bigger budgets, they’re finding ways to think smaller. More personal and local. And it’s working.

Like a growing contingent of indie artists and musicians, they’re realizing something important: They don’t need to be huge in order to fulfill their vision — or make a living, for that matter.

A million tiny niches

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need another blog to read or another magazine to subscribe to. I don’t need a new platform on which to promote my stuff.

I need to focus more on creating and less on selling. But the market is making this increasingly difficult. Because while it’s easier to find fans who care about your work, it’s harder to gain traction.

There is, after all, no more mass market.

I don’t have time to build another asset or join a new social network. As the world segments into a million tiny niches, we artists face the real risk of fading into oblivion. And that’s a problem.

The alternative to club-based thinking

What we need is more collaboration. More cartels and fewer clubs. This is the key to effective leadership in this new era.

My friend Joe and I are doing that with a little project called Story Cartel. It’s not a new blog or another website you have to subscribe to. It’s a band of authors and artists coming together to promote work they believe in, all based on a core belief: Stories are meant to be shared. (Think Noisetrade for books.)

Of course, we’re not doing anything new, and we’re not trying to. That’s the beauty of a cartel. It’s all about connection.

Our goal is to connect with people who share our worldview. It’s not for everyone, but it is for someone. And it’s available to anyone. If you want to join us (we give away a free book from a great author every other week), that’d be cool.

If not, maybe you should form your own cartel. There’s plenty of room for more players at the table.

Three marks of a cartel

Want to form your own cartel? Here are some things to consider:

  1. A cartel is not an organization. It’s a collaboration.
  2. A cartel is generous with its resources. It rewards insiders and encourages outsiders.
  3. A cartel isn’t for everyone. But it is for someone.

So what’re you waiting for? Maybe it’s time to start thinking of your competitors as potential collaborators. Maybe the pie is bigger than you thought and the world smaller than you realized. (Tweet that, if you like.)

What do you think? Are you more of a cartel or club person? Share in the comments.

If you’re found this blog helpful, would you mind considering nominating me for this contest?

44 thoughts on “More Cartels, Fewer Clubs

  1. Really interesting thoughts Jeff.

    I definitely notice this shift in culture around us. There’s a “hyper-local” trend going on in the subculture of things like food, music and even internet news sites.

    I would have to say I’m probably a bit of both; a club and cartel person. I see benefits to both, but would agree with you that right now things are moving in more of the “cartel” direction.

  2. Jeff , just love this post. So much truth here. I’ve signed up for your Story Cartel and will let you know when I have full on e-book ready to share with you. I know a lot of writers here in the UK too, so might be worth me setting up a cartel here. Much to ponder on, thanks for sharing this. 

    Above Jeff, I love your heart, simply wanting to serve. You’re a great example to us all.

  3. This is great.  At my job in higher ed, we have clubs and it only causes competition and slow processes.  In my own efforts to work into a career in writing I have a cartel mindset.  I allow others to join my team so that we may share creative and technical expertise to benefit one another.  You mentioned “niche.”  My post today is about niche.  It’s something we should always be thinking about.

  4. thanks Jeff! love the contrast of the two mentalities (and love your word choices BTW too). I see the beginnings of cartels in the nonprofits i work with and it makes me very happy.I dont grow if I am only with folks who agree with me–I gotta have the push back. I am so “in.” :o)  will tweet! 

    1. Lesa, I definitely see this happening in the nonprofit world. And it’s great, because there is such a need for collaboration, especially amongst organizations with limited resources (which is all of them).

    1. Wow, that’s stupid. Sounds like a social network version of “I’m taking my toys and going home.”

  5. I love the idea of collaborating vs competing. We need more of this in the world. I have loved the books you’ve shared, and look forward to seeing where this goes. Keep up the great work!

  6. Very good post Jeff, you nailed it for sure. Collaboration is the new way of business because everyone wins. We can see that in the market these days where the ones that are thriving are the ones that aren’t scared of sharing “secrets” or working with a competitor. 

    Brilliant post actually. I thought Seth the whole time I was reading this. I think he would be proud 😀

  7. Great post, Jeff! I love the cartel/club image. I’m a SoCal pastor speaking cartel in a club reality. It’s a definite distinction in vocabulary and your post has brought some clarity there. I’ll be watching Story Cartel excitedly. Thanks for all you do (and write)!

  8. Yknow when an idea is the right one when… when the very thinking about it causes an inrush of air. The organizm knows. Sharing always creates that healthful opening up. Reading your posts, Jeff, I often get that same rush. Cheers.

  9. Thank you Jeff!  Once again you’ve shared a wonderful and inspiring vision!  More Cartels, Fewer Clubs…wow.  I’m, let us say mature,  and you are helping me to find my voice finally.

  10. Everyone one wins when you network and work together. Forming a cartel is the best way to spread a message, I’m all about being a cartel. The project looks very interesting Jeff.

  11. I love this idea, Jeff. A solo voice reaches only so far and fades quickly into a crowd. But multiple voices together create a resonance that will carry above the crowd.

  12. I love this idea, Jeff. A solo voice reaches only so far and fades quickly into a crowd. But multiple voices together create a resonance that will carry above the crowd.

  13. Authors helping authors – great concept! And although it’s (unfortunately) somewhat of a controversial word, the whole idea of cartel vs club is one that I can readily identify with. I look forward to seeing what recommendations come out of Story Cartel as time goes on.

  14. Great post, Jeff! The advent of social media has definitely kicked the club doors down and allowed cartels to flourish! The access all creatives have to each other and to platforms to share our art is a major paradigm shift. Collaboration is the wave of the future: it’s actually already here and happening and we should celebrate that reality!

  15. I want to start a cartel of likeminded visual artists united by a manifesto. Like the Surrealists and Dadaists did nearly 100 years ago.

  16. SO GOOD! i love the language and the ideas behind them, jeff. think i might have to borrow some of it for The Youth Cartel. 🙂

  17. Hi Jeff,

    First time commenting on here so be gentle. I love this idea of cartel over club. Your point of everyone trying to sell something is well-made. I used to follow a number of blogs and websites but it got to the point where I just couldn’t keep up. Everyone had something to say but there were just too many places to have to go and look for it, comment on it.

    The idea of a central hub where people can tell their stories, share their talents and ideas just makes it so much easier and ensures that the creative mind isn’t swamped through overload of websites, blogs etc that are out there. 

    Just want to say I love this site and am learning so much. Not sure I am of writer grade yet but certainly am learning about the craft and having my imagination boosted.
    Thanks so much.

  18. I formed a company a number of years ago with a couple friends, one of the guys wanted, “cartel.” We settled on “Syndicate” 🙂

    Love it Jeff…now off to build the Generosity Cartel.

    Great post. Good lead in from Joe Bunting on his email update.

    Take care and have a great weekend.


  19. Jeff, great article!

    You have accomplished so much, and you will continue to do so, because all your thoughts and actions stem from love instead of fear or anger!

    God bless you for guiding your Tribe to higher levels of maturity, spirituality, and authenticity through writing and community building skills they learned from you!

    Why “they” and not “us?” Oh, me too! I have  come a long way because of you! It’s just that I can go this far! My heart is willing but my legs can no longer run!

    I am grateful to you for everything! This cartel idea is great and will help many of your students. You should be proud of your selft!

  20. Basically that is what I have in mind when it comes to poetry site I got up and running.  Working together to promote is better than battling each other to beat the other for market share,

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