Lesson 4.7

Superordinate Group Mentality

Dive into this topic via the key explanations and exercises below.


Key Concepts:


We all belong to lots of groups:

  • Everyone is part of Humanity.

  • After that, we break down into various groups along various dimensions: countries, races, classes, social groups, communities, companies, families, and so on.

  • Our membership in different groups often overlaps, and our own groups’ goals are often at odds.

Our “superodinate” group is the group that we care the most about over all others—the one we think of as our “primary team.”

  • Ideally, this is Team Humanity. But for many people in many situations, it’s not.

  • Whichever team we belong to has the most imminent and inspiring Purpose determines which is superordinate.

  • In many cases, the team you are trying to push forward will not be every team member’s superordinate group.

In order to get the most out of our teams, we need to understand each member’s superordinate groups and align our team’s goals with that person’s goals accordingly.

  • If a company employee’s primary loyalty is to their family, the company has a couple of options:

    • It can do everything it can to make sure what it asks of the employee doesn’t conflict with their family goals, so the employee has every reason to align their goals with the company’s.

    • Or it can try to change that employee’s superordiate group. (Unlikely in the case of family, but possible if the purpose is sufficient. E.g. Nurses often stay at work late to help save lives.)

  • If a member of a company’s sales team’s primary loyalty is to the sales team rather than the larger company, the company has a similar set of options:

    • Try to align the sales team’s incentives with the company’s, so doing right by the superordinate group of the sales team never conflicts with doing right by the company. (Often this is hard to do in this kind of situation.)

    • Or it can try to change the sales person’s superordinate group to be the whole company. It can do this by fostering a stronger sense of purpose (see Lesson 4.5), helping the employee start to think of the members of other teams as part of their in-group (see Lessons 1.5 and 3.3), and through developing shared identity through group rituals (see the next lesson).