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.

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