The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

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What Is 'Clanning'?

Clanning is the process through which humans naturally tend to form distinct groups.

Identifying ourselves as part of a group is a human instinct.

Groups naturally form around important issues, positions or events.

Understand the group dynamic, or you'll be caught up in it.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Clanning'

In 1954, twenty-two twelve-year-old boys were selected to attend a special summer camp in Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma.

Here's what made the summer camp special: the camp was actually a psychology experiment, operated under the direction of Drs. Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif.

Each of the boys was intentionally selected to be as similar to the rest of the group as possible- the psychologists ensured all of the boys had similar IQs, families, and childhood experiences.

Before the experiment started, the group of 22 was split into two groups, and placed on opposite sides of the park. By design, neither group knew that the other existed.

The original plan was to let each group coalesce for a while, then make them aware the other group existed to see what would happen. The camp counselors were psychologists and graduate students, who would be watching the events unfold up close and personal.

Here's what happened: the groups accidentally discovered each other earlier than planned, and hostilities started immediately. As soon as the boys discovered there was another group in "their camp," they rallied together in preparation and defense.

Humans naturally tend to form distinct groups, a process called Clanning.

Asked to choose team names, one group of boys called themselves "the Eagles," while the other group went with "The Rattlers." Distinct group identities formed to help members identify "insiders" and "outsiders." The Eagles created an image of themselves as the heroic good guys, while the Rattlers took on the persona of misfits and rebels.

With surprising speed, minor provocations like put-downs and stealing the other group's flag turned into chaos: campsite raids and fist fights. Competitive activities like sports were a disaster. For the safety of the campers, the researchers quickly tried to find a way to resolve the conflict.

The psychologists introduced challenges and goals that required both groups to work together: solving a water shortage, deciding on a movie to watch, and pushing a broken-down truck back to camp. When the campers started feeling like part of a larger group, the conflicts ceased.

Clanning is a natural human tendency-we're automatically and profoundly influenced by the people around us. Identifying ourselves as part of a group and distinguishing ourselves from other groups is an instinct that explains many of the ongoing wars and conflicts featured in the news every day.

Think of sports fans. The players, coaches, and even stadiums and uniforms change so much it's sometimes difficult to understand what exactly the fans are cheering for-the life of a rabid New York Yankees fan will go on unchanged, regardless of whether the team wins or loses.

While that may be true, it doesn't feel that way to the fan-when the Yanks win, the fans feel like winners too.

Sports rivalries happen for the same reason. I grew up in northern Ohio, where the Ohio State University / Michigan State rivalry is alive and well. Where I come from, during certain parts of the year, Michigan is evil in the eyes of Ohio State fans.

If you look at the situation from a distance, it's absolutely silly-college kids scrambling for a little oblong brown ball while hundreds of thousands of people yell themselves hoarse. In the moment, however, for those two groups the enmity is everything.

Groups naturally form around important issues, positions, or events. Understand the group dynamic, or you're likely to be caught up in it.

Questions About 'Clanning'


"It is a more inspiring battle cry to scream, 'Die, vicious scum!' instead of 'Die, people who could have been just like me but grew up in a different environment!'"

Eliezer Yudkowsky, artificial intelligence researcher and founder of LessWrong.com


From Chapter 8:

Working With Others


https://personalmba.com/clanning/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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