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With thanks to Robert Patterson's Weblog

Understanding how to initiate change is becoming a central issue for our time. Fortunately nature has given us a model that has a much better chance of working than all the change book's ideas so far.

Over the last 2 years I have been seeking the best compression of the ideas of Everett Rogers - the father of Diffusion Theory and his popular disciple Malcolm Gladwell of Tipping Point fame.

I have edited a number of other people's work into what I hope is the easiest, most complete and most accessible review of their thinking. This is not my original work but is my original editing!

I hope that this helps you in your change project.

How can you put your organization on the leading edge of the competitive landscape?

It is clear to many leaders that “Business as Usual” is a recipe for organizational failure. Knowing where to go is not enough. The real leadership issue is knowing how to get the rest of the organization to go there.

How do you effect meaningful change? That is the question. How does change really happen?

Change is frustrating for everyone in organizations. Leaders know that often survival depends on change. Most employees however see change only as a threat and resist change. Change is seen by most as involving great effort and that in the end it often fails.

But there is another way of looking at change. What if change was easy and required little effort but needed instead clever use of process? What if we saw change in the same way that disease happens. What if new ideas were like germs and the process of change was like an epidemic? How could you set change on motion by using this concept?

This paper is a consolidation of a number of ideas that support this thesis

Adoption of Internet Technology
Approximately 37 million US adults use the Internet from home on a daily basis compared to only 19 million in mid-1997, according to The Strategis Group. The Internet is expected to have 250 million users globally in the next two year. This level of growth is tremendous.

Adoption is a key phrase with Internet technology. Adoption is the process of integrating the Internet and its benefits into the life of an individual or organization. It is based on innovation.

Innovativeness is the degree to which an individual or other unit of adoption is relatively early in adopting new ideas than other members of a system. Innovativeness indicates overt behavioral change. Everett Rogers wrote a book many consider to be the leading book on the Internet and technology called, 'The Diffusion of Innovation.' This is how the curve looks. Note the gestation period at first and then the system Tips and climbs almost effortlessly if the precinditions for adoption have been met.

The social strata for adoption
Rogers stated that the individuals in a social system do not adopt an innovation at the same time. Rather, they adopt in an over-time sequence, so that individuals can be classified into adopter categories on the basis of when they first begin using a new idea.

♣ Innovators account for 2.5 percent of individuals in a system.
♣ Early Adopters account for 13.5 percent.
♣ The Early Majority account for 34 percent.
♣ The Late Majority also accounts for 34 percent.
♣ Laggards make up the remaining 16 percent.

Here we see the diffusion effect from the perspective of how networks form. Some people have more influence than others.

1. Innovators
Innovators are daring, rash and risky. They are able to cope with a high level of uncertainty. Rogers says, "While an innovator may not be respected by the other members of a local system, the innovator plays an important role in the diffusion process; that of launching the new idea in the system by importing the innovation from outside of the system's boundaries. Thus the innovator plays a gate-keeping role in the flow of new ideas into a system."
2. Early Adopters
Opinion leadership is an important aspect of the Early Adopter. They often serve as a role model for other people. They are more integrated into society than the innovators. "The early adopter is respected by his or her peers, and is the embodiment of successful, discrete use of new ideas. The early adopter knows that to continue to earn this esteem of colleagues and to maintain a central position in the communication networks of the system, he or she must make judicious innovation-decisions. The early adopter decreases uncertainty about a new idea by adopting it, and then conveying a subjective evaluation of the innovation to near-peers through interpersonal networks," Rogers said.
3. Early Majority
The early majority adopts new ideas just before the average member of a system. The early majority is the most numerous adopter categories, making up one-third of the members of a system. Rogers says, "The early majority may deliberate for some time before completely adopting a new idea. Their innovation-decision period is relatively longer than that of the innovator and the early adopter. They follow with deliberate willingness in adopting innovations, but seldom lead."
4. Late Majority
The late majority adopts new ideas just after the average member of a system. Like the early majority, the late majority makes up one-third of the members of a system. Adoption may be both an economic necessity for the late majority, and the result of increasing network pressures from peers. "Innovations are approached with a skeptical and cautious air, and the late majority do not adopt until most others in their system have done so. The weight of system norms must definitely favor an innovation before the late majority are convinced. The pressure of peers is necessary to motivate adoption," said Rogers.
5. Laggards
Laggards are the last in a social system to adopt an innovation. They possess almost no opinion leadership. Rogers says, "Laggards tend to be suspicious of innovations and change agents. Their innovation-decision process is relatively lengthy, with adoption and use lagging far behind awareness-knowledge of a new idea. Resistance to innovations on the part of laggards may be entirely rational from the laggards' viewpoint, as their resources are limited and they must be certain that a new idea will not fail before they can adopt."
How does understanding the Tipping Point help us make this shift?

Is the one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once.

Is the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point, a place where the unexpected becomes expected, where radical change is more than possibility. It is a certainty.

They are like epidemics...

Tip because of the extraordinary efforts of a few select carriers. But they also sometimes tip when something happens to transform the epidemic agent itself.

Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.

They are another example of geometric progression: when a virus spreads through a population, it doubles and doubles again into infinity. Epidemics are a function of the people who transmit infectious agents, the infectious agent itself, and the environment in which the infectious agent is operating

This is How SARS spread in Toronto - note the match to the classic curve.
The curve is not imaginary - it is a given.

They (Epidemics) have clear examples of contagious behavior. They both have little changes that make big effects. It takes only the smallest of changes to shatter an epidemic's equilibrium.

They happen in a hurry.

This is the most important trait, because it is the principle that makes sense of the first two and that permits the greatest insight into why modern change happens the way it does.

Epidemics involve straightforward simple things; a "product" However, I see it as a way to spark revolution and a message.

In order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first. Contagiousness is in larger part a function of the messenger. Stickiness is primarily a property of the message.

There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them. With an epidemic, a tiny majority of the people does the work. Once critical factor in epidemics is the nature of the messenger. Messengers make something spread.

Word of mouth is still the most important form of human communication. Rumors are the most contagious of all social messages.

♣ People with a special gift for bringing the world together, people specialists
♣ Know lots of people
♣ Have an extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances, making social connections.
♣ Have mastered the "weak tie"; a friendly, yet casual social connection.
♣ Manage to occupy many different worlds and subcultures and niches. By having a foot in so many different worlds, they have the effect of bringing them all together.
♣ Acquaintances represent a source of social power, and the more acquaintances you have the more powerful you are.
♣ Social glue: they spread the message

♣ Information specialists
♣ Once they figure out how to get that great deal, they want to tell you about it too.
♣ Solves his own problems, his own emotional needs, by solving other people's problems.
♣ Have knowledge and the social skills to start word-of-mouth epidemics.
♣ A teacher and a student
♣ In a social epidemic, Mavens are data banks. They provide the message.

• Have the skills to persuade when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing.
• Little things can make as much of a difference as big things.
• Gives nonverbal clues that are more important than verbal clues.

"Interactional synchrony": human interaction has a rhythmic physical dimension. We dance to each other's speech…we're perfectly in harmony.

Motor mimicry: we imitate each other's emotions as a way of expressing support and caring and, even more basically, as a way of communicating with each other. Emotion is contagious. "Senders" are very good at expressing emotions and feelings. They are far more emotionally contagious than the rest of us.

Persuasion often works in ways that we do not appreciate. You draw others into your own rhythms and dictate the terms of the interaction.

There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible/sticky and compels a person into action. All you have to do is find it. In order to be capable of sparking epidemics, ideas have to be memorable and move us into action. Content of the message matters too.
1. What is needed is a subtle but significant change in presentation to make most messages stick.
2. The elements that make an idea sticky turn out to be small and trivial.
3. "Clutter" has made it harder and harder to get any one message to stick. The information age has created a stickiness problem.
4. Pay careful attention to the structure and format of your material, and you can dramatically enhance stickiness.
5. Can tip a message by tinkering, on the margin, with the presentation of their ideas THE POWER OF

We don't necessarily appreciate that our inner states are the result of our outer circumstances. We are more than just sensitive to changes in context. We're exquisitely sensitive to them. And the kinds of contextual changes that are capable of tipping an epidemic are very different than we might ordinarily suspect. The impetus to engage in a certain kind of behaviour is not coming from a certain kind of person but from a feature of the environment.
1. Small changes in context can be just as important in tipping epidemics.
2. An environmental argument.
3. What really matters is little things "Broken Windows Theory": in a city, relatively minor problems like graffiti, public disorder, and aggressive panhandling, are all the equivalent of broken windows, invitations to more serious crimes (Rudy Gulliani's belief)
4. An epidemic can be reversed/tipped by tinkering with the smallest details of the immediate environment.
5. There are specific situations so powerful that they can overwhelm our inherent predispositions.
6. Human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation and context. We are a lot more attuned to personal cues than contextual cues.
7. Character is more like a bundle of habits and tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent, at certain times, on circumstances and context.
8. The convictions of your heart and the actual contents of your thoughts are less important, in the end, in guiding your actions then the immediate context of your behavior.
"There seems to be some limitation built into us either by learning or by the design of the nervous systems, a limit that keeps our channel capacities in this general range (i.e. the human minds inability to comprehend things beyond sets 7)" —George Miller "The Magical Number Seven"

"The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us. Putting it another way, it's the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar." —Robin Dunbar,
1. Even relatively small increases in the size of a group [beyond 150] create a significant additional social and intellectual burden.
2. The rule of 150 suggests that the size of a group is another one of those subtle contextual factors that can make a big difference.
3. Peer pressure is much more powerful than a concept of a boss
4. Transactive memory: we store information with other people. Since mental energy is limited, we concentrate on what we do best.
5. Groups of 150 are an organized mechanism that makes it far easier for new ideas and information moving around the organization to tip; to go from one person or one part of the group to the entire group all at once.
First Lesson of the Tipping Point
Starting epidemics requires concentrating resources on a few key areas. Your resources ought to be solely concentrated on the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.

Second Lesson of the Tipping Point
The world does not accord with our intuition. Those who are successful at creating social epidemics do not just do what they think is right. They deliberately test their intuitions.
Important Conclusion!
What must underlie successful epidemics, in the end, is a bedrock belief that change is possible, that people can radically transform their behavior or beliefs in the face of the right kind of impetus.

Tipping Points are a reaffirmation of the potential for change and the power of intelligent action. Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push; just in the right place; it can be tipped.


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