In a time of severe toxic polarization, how do we navigate the turbulent force of group identity? How is it impacting us or our business? Can we turn the negative side of group identity into a more positive force? In this episode, Jay Van Bavel joins Tom in understanding the psychology of group identity and how we can find commonalities to build a structure within our business to create a more harmonious and effective long-term strategy.
Order Tom’s book, “The Win-Win Wealth Strategy: 7 Investments the Government Will Pay You to Make” at: https://winwinwealthstrategy.com/
Looking for more on Jay Van Bavel?
Website: https://www.jayvanbavel.com/, https://www.powerofus.online/
Books: “The Power of Us: Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony”
00:00 – Intro
03:18 – Why are humans driven to seek group identity? How has it evolved in recent years?
08:35 – What caused this extreme dissonance? How do we turn it into a more positive force?
13:10 – How do we navigate our business when both sides, including customers, have strong opinions?
18:30 – Tips for successful marketing using psychology of group identity.
23:48 – How do you find potential customers who identify with your business?
27:08 – What should a business do to capture the group who identifies with them? Task focused vs. Mission focused.
This is the WealthAbility Show with Tom Wheelwright. Way more money, way less taxes.
So the world is in really a massive upheaval right now, and some of that is based on how we are identifying ourselves as groups, as tribes, as opposed to as individuals. And we have a very special guest today, a social psychologist who specializes in this area. And what we're going to do is we're going to discover how group identity actually affects our decisions and frankly, the decisions of our customers, our tenants, anybody else in our world. And I'm very happy to have with us today, Jay Van Bavel from New York University, and really an expert in this area. He's written a book, The Power of Us, which is about harnessing our shared identities to improve performance. So we're always wanting to improve performance. So Jay, it's a pleasure to have you on our show.
Jay Van Bavel:
Thanks so much for having me, Tom.
So if you would just give us a little bit of your background and how you got into looking at the whole group identity area.
Jay Van Bavel:
Yeah, so I mean, I'm from a small town in rural Canada and my process was when I was in university, well, first of all, I think part of it started, I loved and played a lot of sports as a kid, and I noticed that we'd go to the football field and flip a coin and make two teams or the hockey rink and we would just throw all our sticks in the middle and someone would kind of blindly throw them on two sides. And I noticed very early on that something psychologically shifted in us the moment that we were part of a team. And in particular, I had one of my best friends, his name is Jaren. We were both super competitive and if we were on the same team, we would get along famously and cooperate great, and really work hard to win. We were both pretty good athletes and if we ended up on the opposite teams, we'd be fighting within half an hour because we were both so competitive.
And so, it was that psychology is like a switch in our brain that goes off and it gets triggered really simply that can kind of make it easy to cooperate or if you're competing can make it easy to tip over into insults and even aggression and violence. And so, when I went to do my PhD, I started to study this in the lab and I have now studied how this plays out in domains of racial bias, political conflict. I've also looked at how you can turn it into healthier ways to create cooperation, people sharing and also group decision making, how we can leverage this type of identity to make people actually work better in groups and come to smarter and more innovative decisions. And so, I've kind of spent the last 20 years studying it through all these different lenses.
So I guess, this explains why people get so rabid about their college teams, which has always been frankly mystifying to me as to why people care so much about a team over which they had no input whatsoever. But I'm a big individualist. So can you just give us a little background on why is this, what is it about, let's start with a big picture, group identity in general, what makes us want to be part of a group and want to identify with part of a group? And then what I want to go into is how this seems to have been exacerbated over the last 10 years in particular where you've got very strong political parties, very strong throughout the world and very strong, almost tribal identity going on as opposed to I'm part of a bigger whole.
Jay Van Bavel:
Okay, so let me start with the current answer. Like you said, you're an individualist. That's actually how most Americans see themselves. And actually, there's research on this that the more you identify as an American, the more you see yourself as an individualist because that's part of what it means to be part of the tribe as American. As opposed to you go to other countries, if you go to Japan, the more you identify as Japanese, the more you identify as a collectivist. And so, even immigrants, when they come over to the United States, the more they identify as American over years and years to get their citizenship, the more they start to think of themselves as an individualist. So that's part of who we are here. And so, that's actually even part of our group identity, that's part of our tribe. When you're part of a tribe, what you care about is fitting in and that means fitting into whatever the norms are.
Again, in America that's about individualism. You go to other groups and that's not the case. And so, that's kind of the funny thing about what it means to be an American or a lot of other cultures are individualists in similar ways. But where does this kind of group identity come from? The short answer is it has a deep roots. So humans evolved in small groups cooperating, and we are pretty flimsy creatures. We would get picked off by predators pretty quickly. We don't have sharp fangs or claws or poison. We can't fly away. We don't have camouflage. And so, our evolutionary advantage is cooperation that humans cooperate better and more efficiently in groups than any other primate. And so, humans are the only primate that will share resources and cooperate with in-group members who they have never met. And so, that's something that's baked into the way our brains are wired.
And then what happens is then you drop people in a culture and that can be harnessed in healthy ways. And so, you mentioned college sports. So I spent three years at Ohio State doing my postdoc there. And their local religion is college football and they have on football, on game day, on Saturdays you'll get 106,000 people or so at the stadium at the horseshoe. And everybody's dressed in scarlet and gray. And it is fun. There are chants, there are rituals, everybody's high-fiving with strangers. There's a huge culture of tailgating and it's super welcoming and fun unless you're a Michigan fan and then it's very unfun for you. But it's almost like a ritual, a celebration. And actually, the moment I moved there, I realized this is a ton of fun. I instantly became a fan and I've been a fan ever since.
And so, groups can be harnessed in ways that are actually fun and dynamic and give you a chance to meet other people, help the team work together and create this sense of commitment and joy and celebration, or they can be harnessed in ways. And I think you're talking about things like polarization where we've been studying polarization in the US and it is one of those things where in the last 40 years, we are now more polarized than we've ever measured before. We don't have measures that go back over 40, 50 years. But over time, we've become more and more polarized. And the polarization is not driven by in-group love. It's not that people love their own party more than they used to 10 or 20 or 40 years ago.
It's driven almost entirely by a growth and out-group hate, which means that now people hate the other party more than they actually like their own party. And that means they'll vote for a candidate they don't even like because they really want to stop the other side from getting in. And the reason they want to do that is not just because they disagree with them on policy, which used to be kind of how politics soft of lie, like this group's policies more than that group's. But now it's that you think the other side is evil and that makes it really kind of a toxic form of polarization that spills over into things like violence. A lot of people talk about if it continues on this pathway, it could erode democracy, lead to civil war. And so, it's definitely in going in a more and more hostile and toxic direction in the US.
Most obviously with the Donald Trump syndrome I'll call it, where I have family members who absolutely detest Donald Trump. They don't detest his policies, they just detest him. And they detest anybody who affiliates with Donald Trump. And then I'm like in the middle here, and I have this other group of friends and they absolutely detest Joe Biden and everything that the progressives stand for. And yet if you look at some of the individual policies, particularly some of the social beneficial policies of the Democratic Party, for example, they would not disagree with those. And so, what we have is we have basically a congress that doesn't work very well together because they're polarized. And so, the question is, first of all, how did we get there? And then the next question is, so how do we actually make this a positive for us?
Jay Van Bavel:
So a lot of it is been led by, and the political scientists call it elites, that if you look at the voting record in Congress, which you mentioned 40, 50, 60 years ago, there was a lot of cross voting. You have Democrats voting on bills that were proposed by Republicans, Republicans voting on bills proposed by Democrats. And you had people who were famous for working across the aisle, Ted Kennedy, John McCain. His whole identity was a maverick. And so, you had these people who did this and spent their career doing it, and their goal was just to get as much legislation passed as they could and make as much different as they could. And now, you can see these clusters used to be connected slowly pulling apart. And then if you look at their rhetoric in Congress, it became very hostile, very moralized, very polarized. And we've analyzed it.
And the level of polarized kind of hostile rhetoric has increased over time, even within the last few years. And it's really kind of gotten off the charts from where it had been for many decades. And so, a lot of it is the behavior and beliefs and lack of cooperation from political elites trickles down. I will say one thing, and this is something that gives me some optimism. A lot of people think the other party hates them. You talked about your friends who hate Trump, people who voted for Trump, you talked about your friends who hate Biden and voted for Biden. It turns out that people think that there's… I just told you that hate has gone off the charts. There's more out-group hate than there has been for 40 years, but we still overestimate it. We actually think it's much worse than it is.
And if you just tell people, if you talk to a Democrat say, “How much do you think the average Republican despises you out of a 100?” And then you say, “Well, actually we measured it and here's the reality. It's not nearly as bad as you think.” People become more open-minded. And the same thing if you tell Republicans, ask them, “How much do you think the average Democrat hates people like you?” And then you show them the data about how much Democrats actually hate them. It's never as bad as people think. And so, if you show them this, it actually decreases their hostility a little bit. They realize the other side doesn't hate them as much as they thought, and it makes them more open-minded to engaging and having conversations and so forth. So I think part of it is like we've been a little misled. It's gotten bad, but in our mind it's like a boogeyman. It's much worse than it is. And so, I think there's something useful about just if we could give people a more honest assessment of what the average person in the other party's like.
And I'll say, I think here's partly why it is, it's because we find the people with the most extreme views in each party and those people go viral on social media. Those people are on the night TV or whatever crazy thing they've done is put in the news. And so, we're constantly seeing the most extreme crazy person from the other side rather than seeing the average person's views from the other side, which are actually more nuanced. Sometimes they actually agree with us on policies and beliefs. And so, I think that's also something that's happened is the way that the media works in social media is all about attention economy. And so, if you can find something said really something insane that you disagree with, you can post them up and you'll get lots of likes and follows and attention. And so, we've created an economy for people to blast out the baddies and not show actually the nuance and complexity of what people actually believe and what they're like.
And yet, I find that increasingly, I'm a tax guy. I am talking about people reducing their taxes. I've never met anybody who liked paying taxes, not even once, not literally one time. And yet, if you talk about reducing taxes, people have strong views on both sides. I mean, people are either, “Yeah, I hate taxes.” And then the other side is, well, but people need to pay more taxes. And this is the first time I've ever seen this. I've got a 45-year career going here, and I've never seen a side saying, “We need to increase taxes.” And so, it's part of that polarization it seems to me. And where does it end? I mean, where does this go from here? Because I'm looking at, well, so what do you want? Do you want a 100% taxes? What are you looking for? Is it just other people that need to pay more taxes or are you willing to pay more taxes? I mean, what's going on here?
Jay Van Bavel:
Yeah, I mean, I think part of it again is that we just start to repeat talking points of our political leaders. It turns out there was a study done at Harvard Business School where they looked and they got people to estimate the actual distribution of income of Americans versus what they would ideally want. And Democrats and Republicans actually had pretty similar ideals of what they actually want, and they're both pretty far off in terms of how it is. And so, sometimes there's actually a lot of commonality underneath, but we never see it because there's not really an incentive structure. I think for the media to show the commonalities, the incentive structure for the media is to talk about the difference and definitely the incentive structure of a lot of politicians is to constantly talk about the differences and exaggerate the differences. And so, I think if you could find a healthy atmosphere for people to see what commonalities do exist and really focus on those and they try to find ways to get legislature that actually lines up with their preferences, you'd be better off.
But of course, that's how politics is supposed to work and it's broken. And so, it's not doing that right now, but I think obviously there's some taxes I think society needs to pay, figure out how to do that. Optime is actually really hard and building consensus. And the other thing is you want to build consensus because the problem is in a polarized electorate is let's say the Republicans pass a bill, then the Democrats, if they get power, which they do about every second time, well, their whole goal will just be to repeal it, and then they'll put in a tax in economic structure, and then the Republicans will run with the whole plan to repeal it. And so, you actually don't have stability for individuals or businesses to actually be able to effectively build business strategy and financial strategies around kind of a stable long-term plan. And so, I think that's also very disruptive. And uncertainty tends to, in my understanding, I'm not an economist, but my understanding is that's not something that's very helpful to [inaudible 00:15:03].
No, actually it's a very big issue right now. But it seems like social media and the media in general tends to reinforce us being part of that group and not being part of the whole, because the algorithms are such that if I type in the same question into a search engine that you do, I will get a different result than you do because it'll be based on my history and it will come back with things that I want. So the AI, the machine learning is actually programmed that way. So it seems like that would exacerbate it. But let's turn a little bit to a little more micro and a little less macro. When you think about, okay, it's pretty clear that the group dynamic is strong, how do you deal with that in a business, for example, with customers? Because what I'm finding more and more is that the customers tend to be more rabid customers, but they're a smaller group of them.
So it's not like you've got the entire population anymore. What you've got is you've got this population that already thinks the way that you're talking about, but other people are just not willing to even look at it. So how do you deal with that from a business standpoint? Hey, if you like financial education the way I do, you're going to love Buck Joffrey's podcast. Buck's a friend of mine, he's a client of mine, he's a former board certified surgeon and he's turned into a real estate professional. So he has this podcast that is geared towards high paid professionals, that's who he's geared towards. So if you're a high paid professional, you're going, “Look, I'd like to do something different with my money than what I'm doing. I'd like to get financially educated. I'd like to take control of my money and my life and my taxes.” I would love to recommend Buck Joffrey's podcast, which is called Wealth Formula Podcast with Buck Joffery, I hope you join Buck on this adventure of a lifetime.
Jay Van Bavel:
So I realize that everything's kind of become more fragmented politically in terms of businesses. And so, I think on one hand, it's an advantage because if you have customer loyalty and you can sustain those people, I think one thing that a lot of companies try to do is turn their consumers if they are rabid into evangelists. And so, what you want to do is, and this is like we write about this in our book, one of the geniuses of this is Apple and Steve Jobs. And so, right now I'm talking to you from my Apple laptop. And if I were to flip it down, there's the Apple logo, and if I close my laptop, I'll be looking at the Apple logo upside down. And so, why would you create a product that allows you to look at the logo upside down? It makes no sense.
Well, the reason is because if I'm ever out at a coffee shop or somewhere working, I open my laptop, the logo is right side up to everybody around me. It's like a little bat signal. It's a way of signaling that I'm working on this product. And so, what they've done, and the other thing you get, this is a question for everybody listening, I'll give you a little quiz. What's the one thing you get if you're an Apple user, what's the one thing you get in every Apple product box that is completely irrelevant to the product? Are you an Apple guy, Tom, because, if so, you might know that.
I am an Apple guy. Well, I think there's actually a lot, the packaging itself is irrelevant to the product. Certainly the instructions and that kind of stuff is irrelevant to the product because no one's ever opened that, but I don't know what you're referring to.
Jay Van Bavel:
So you get a sticker, a white apple.
Jay Van Bavel:
You can put as a sticker, and why would they give you a sticker for a product that has the logo on it? Is is so you can put it up at your office or on your bike or on the back of your car or whatever, so you can signal to people even when you're not using your product, what you're using. And so, they have baked in this evangelism into their product. And then the other two things they do, we talk about that are really baked into how to build really sticky identities that people care about are fulfilling two core needs people have in groups. One is the need to belong. And so, if you feel like the product is designed to you and there's community of users, that creates a sense of belonging. But the other one is people really want a sense of distinctiveness.
Their group is different and better than other groups. And so, I always thought that this is a hard thing for Apple to pull off as they became one of the world's biggest companies. But if you look at their advertising, they've been doing this for 40 years. The most famous ad of all time was in the Super Bowl of 1984, and the ad was called 1984, and it was kind of a playoff, George Orwell's famous book, and it was like someone droning on to all these people in a cult and this woman runs up and just smashes it. And it was for Apple, and it was like you're kind of smashing big brother. If you're an Apple user, you're like a rebel. And when Steve Jobs came back to relaunch the company when it was struggling, they had this whole “Think Different” campaign where you had Amelia Earhart and Gandhi and all these kinds of crazy thoughtful leaders and all these different domains, and the whole branding was around you are different than everybody.
And so, even if you're using one of the most popular products on earth, and you're really a pretty rabid conformist at this point, you still sustain that sense of I'm special because it's kind of baked into the branding and the advertising. So I think if you're trying to reach out to customers is to find a way to create products and things that can signal the brand and turn them into evangelists, but also kind of make sure that you're scratching those two itches. They feel like when they're part of that identity connected to that product, that they have a sense of belonging, but also that sense of distinctiveness that they feel like it's not making them a mindless lemming to own the product.
Well, I think there's a really good example because Microsoft doesn't have that clearly. I mean, people aren't rabid Microsoft followers, they like Microsoft because it's left brain. People like Apple because it's right brain. I mean, I really believe that Apple is about a feeling and Microsoft is about a task and a doing. But I also noticed that people on Apple phones, when people ask about your phone, you say, “I have an iPhone.” You don't hear people saying, “I've got a Samsung or I've got one of these others.” People don't say that because they don't identify with that brand and the people do with the iPhone, but the people who don't like Apple really don't like them.
Jay Van Bavel:
Yeah. What you can sometimes have is another company can benefit from being in contrast, I grew up in, I guess, I said small town, rural Alberta, which was truck country, and there was people who were like Dodge fans and other guys were Ford fans and they hated guys who drove Dodge. And it was like they'd wear shirts on it. They'd have pictures of Calvin and Hobbes on a Dodge logo on their Ford truck or whatever their GMC. And it was like that was a core identity of who they were. It was like what brand a truck you drove. And so, you can benefit from that kind of competition by creating your identity against whatever the other dominant group is. Just like we do in sports all the time. There's a lot of people who love the Yankees, but there's just as many people, if not more, who hate the Yankees. And so, that's also part of identity is that you can leverage that as kind of the antithesis of them.
So you're actually talking about… So this is actually can be a positive because what you're saying is that having those two opposite teams when you are kids or you've got Ohio State versus Michigan or whoever that rival is, that rivalry actually creates benefit for your business. So if your business can say, “Well, this is what makes us different from everybody else and everybody else is just a rival.” So that actually builds the brand itself. So it attracts people you're saying?
Jay Van Bavel:
Yeah, that can attract people, it can create a real sense of commitment. It can make, again, it turns your consumers into evangelists. If they start going around and putting stickers on to signal who they are, just like I'll use again, the Michigan, Ohio State fans, they wear their hat or their jersey, whatever, where they're walking around going to dinner with pride and are very confident about it and it's signaling something about them to the whole world. And fans will pay a lot of money to buy the swag and wear it around. And so, that's part of the psychology that you're tapping into.
It's the same psychology we were just talking about with politics. It can get applied to sports, it can get applied to what truck you own. It can get applied to what computer you use. It's the same basic psychology that's baked into our brains and our DNA. And so, if you're smart, you can leverage it in ways that are beneficial or healthy. Of course, it can get leveraged against you for all kinds of terrible reasons, but it's like you should understand it because it's part of who we are as humans, and it's going to happen one way or the other. It's better for you to A, understand what's happening so you don't get manipulated, but B, understand what's going so you can harness it in a better way.
Well, so how do you identify that group of potential customers that is going to identify with your brand and what you do?
Jay Van Bavel:
Yeah, I mean that's something that's actually, I think a much harder job. And so there's all kinds of different ways of doing that. Obviously you want to get it out to the right people, find out what they like about it. But I think what you want to do is bake into whatever you do, ways of signaling what the brand is, that's like the Apple logo so that it's designed so other people can see it and make it easy for other people to spread the word as easy as possible, building ways that people can have a sense of community. And there's all kinds of ways you can do that with. I'm thinking some people who identify with rock bands, they have fan clubs and you get a number based on when you signed up for that fan club. And if you're a fan club, you get the first pass at when conferences or when tickets go on sale and stuff like that, or you get better seating or you get access to backstage content.
And so, influencers are doing this all the time now, or somebody has a newsletter and then there's the special people who pay who are really enthusiastic and they get special access and special content. So I think what you want to do is build a community and give something to that community that makes them feel special that they're getting for their dollar. I mean, this is something every airline uses now. My wife convinced me a few years ago to just get a Delta card and all of my flights on Delta. And ever since I did that, man, they treat me so good, I get to go now in the lounge. And it's like I've got total loyalty to them, even if my flight costs a bit more and they give me free upgrades.
And so, if you buy into the identity with the brand, they have all these special things that you didn't even realize exist if you weren't part of it. And so, I think that's something that helps. And then you get spread to word. I tell other people, “Pick an airline, become a loyal customer, get the credit card from them and you'll get all these extra perks. It'll just make your life so much less stressful and easier and more enjoyable when you travel. And so, that's the kind of thing that's like you become an evangelist really quickly if the perks of the group identification are really good.
Well, that's another good example because a lot of the bigger airlines people go, “Well, they're all bad.” I mean, that's kind of the feeling. But people go to Southwest at least until they have their big snafu last fall. But people go to Southwest, I mean, literally my granddaughter, she'll see the plane in the sky. She'll go, “Oh, that's one of my planes.” She loves Southwest, my wife loves Southwest. I don't, but I'm not in that group. But she loves it and I'm going, it's so interesting that really the underdog that's Southwest is the underdog brand. They've been able to create a brand like that.
And just with simple things like having flight attendants that are funny, that are silly and enjoy things instead of American, Delta, United, that they're just like, “I can't believe I have to actually fly this flight again.” So I think that's a really interesting contrast, this group identity. So what else? What are basically, in closing, if you had two or three things that I think a business owner ought to do in particular to really capture this group identity and actually take advantage of it, what would be two or three things that you would suggest?
Jay Van Bavel:
Okay. So I'd say there's two ways of thinking about it. One is outward looking, and that's what I've been talking about so far. It's like have a great brand identity, have a logo, find ways to make it easy for people to share and build that sense of community. Another thing is if you're… I give a lot of talks in organizations designed around what we call identity leadership. And I didn't come up with the term, but there's a ton of research on this. And what the research finds is that great leaders are entrepreneurs of identity, which means that leadership kind of has two components, one that everybody knows, which is good mentoring, one-on-one, kind of finding good people, training them up. But another piece of it that often gets ignored is creating a sense of us and defining who we are and making people feel that and connected and energized around it.
And so, that's something that's often missing from great leaders who are often really smart, highly competent, super motivated, promoted because they were very successful. And so, they can pass on their individual skills. But very few of them have been trained or are skilled in this what we call identity leadership, this kind of entrepreneur to constantly create a sense of us among their staff. And so, those are the things I think that that's kind of your inward looking way to use identity. We have a whole chapter on that at the end of our book on leadership and we talk about that. Actually, we're writing another book now, my co-author Dominic Packer. And I really just focused on entrepreneurs of identity and how to use this to create a sense of us. And so, I would say the thing about that is if you unlock that, you get what's called engaged followership. And every time I log in on LinkedIn, big huge issue in a lot of companies right now on engagement, people are disengaged. A lot of people don't want to go back to work.
And there's a sense that a lot of leaders and organizations like, how can we energize people again, people are burned out. And what the research shows on identity leadership is that when you have this kind of leadership, it actually creates what's called engaged followership. Which means that if people feel identified with the goal, the team or the organization or whatever, and they know what you're working towards, they will do it even when the leader's not around, when the leader's on vacation, when the leader's not monitoring them, when they haven't had a chance to touch base with the leader, they're using all their creativity and all the smarts and talents that you brought them onto the team forward. And they are creatively working towards team goals all the time. Just like a great athlete is working all the time to make the team a success. They don't need the coach to be staring at them to be working really hard if they're actually really committed to winning a championship. And so, that's kind of the way that identity works if it's harnessed in a healthy way by leaders.
So it sounds a little like instead of task focused, it becomes mission focused.
Jay Van Bavel:
Yeah. You have a mission that everybody's a part of and everybody benefits if you achieve it. So another thing that a lot of companies fail to do is every company rewards based on individual performance. You talk about individualists, that's the model we have. Ever since I was a kid in kindergarten, you get stickers by my teacher, if I got the most answers. I remember in grade four, the teacher listed all the grades at the end of the year, put them up on the wall and you could see where you ranked compared to everybody else. And so, that's baked in from the time we're like five years old. And every company, even my department at New York University ranks us all end of the year based on how much papers we publish. And if you're in the top category, you get the highest raise. If you're in the bottom category, you get the lowest raise.
That's what we do everywhere. But I'm a big fan of also finding a way to reward group success. So I'll go back to the football example, Ohio State, I'll give you one story and then we can wrap up here. But this is one of my favorite stories of this. The Ohio State football team in the '60s was one of the best teams in the country. They created this cool, it's one of the most oldest football college traditions, which is at the end of each game, the coaches would give out a sticker to the best players if-
Oh, right. I remember that.
Jay Van Bavel:
… get a Buckeye sticker on his helmet. And at the end of the season, when the players run onto the field, the superstar players have their helmets covered in these Buckeye stickers. It's a real ball or move. As you run on the field, all a 100,000 fans cheering for you and you've got more stickers than anybody else. And they got worse and worse than worse until they were like a 500 team, which is really bad considering all the advantages they have in history and resources and recruiting and talent to be a mediocre team. And they fired the coach, got a new coach, Jim Tressel, and he got to Ohio State and he looked around at the culture there and he said, “This is not working. It's incentivizing individual performance and people are going to take shortcuts that aren't going to help the team.”
And s, he changed it. So if the offense gets a certain amount of points, everybody on the offense gets a sticker. So even if you're like in the trenches on the offensive line doing the grunt work, you deserve just as much credit if they get a touchdown because if you didn't do your job, the quarterback gets sacked and no one gets a touchdown. If the team wins, everybody gets a sticker, even if you didn't get on the field. And the thinking is you were there all week at practice, and if you were working hard, you helped the team win. You're on the sidelines sending in plays or helping pump people up. You're engaged all the time. You're helping the team win, and that's part of it, and you're ready to jump in if we need you. And so, he started rewarding at these collective levels, group levels, added layered that on, and within a year they were the national champions.
And in the last 20 years, over four different coaches who've kind of kept this culture, they've been the second-best team in the country on average, other than Alabama. And this costs $0. If you're a leader, you're thinking giving stickers is pretty trivial that you don't have to get any more corner offices or big bonuses, but it's the social status you get and from the fans and people seeing it, that all of you sharing is part of what happens culturally that can mobilize people to make sacrifices, to help the offense to achieve or defense or the whole team.
That is awesome. So Jay, where would people get more information about your work and what you're doing?
Jay Van Bavel:
So the simplest way is probably go to our book website, powerofus.online, and we have a free newsletter every week. It's free for anybody. We talk about all the science of identity. And what we write about is just like what we talked about here today, Tom. It goes everything from identity and how it's playing out politically to organizations, to individual teams, to leadership. And so, it's free. I recommend people subscribe to the newsletter, Power of Us Newsletter. And if you seem interested, I encourage you to check out the book. It's all there, and we have an audiobook. So if you're interested in kind of deep diving on this, learning how identity actually works and how it can be harnessed for good and not bad, I encourage you to check out and buy the book.
I love it. And what we've learned here over the last 30 or 40 minutes, which I really appreciate Jay, is that while there's a lot of distress from this group identity and we talk about identity politics and we talk about racial identity and things that are pretty negative, we can actually flip that and look at the positive side of identity and how we feel better being part of a group, how customers can feel better being a part of a group. And it seems to me like when we do that, we're always going to make way more money and pay way less.
Jay Van Bavel:
And I also think the other thing I would say is that it's going to be with us no matter what because it's part of our DNA. So it's better to know how it works and think of ways to use it in a healthy way.
Absolutely, I love it. So everyone, come back and review this recording. This is one that we should watch over and over again, listen to over and over again. And I want to especially thank Jay Van Bavel for this. Again, his book is The Power of Us and his website is powerofus.online. So thanks everyone, and we'll see you next time.
You've been listening to The WealthAbility Show with Tom Wheelwright, way more money, way less taxes. To learn more, go to wealthability.com.