Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I had lunch with the Herdmeister last week - Mark Earls, the clever bloke who wrote Herd.
Mark points out that we are not rational creatures, we are post rationalisers, ie we do stuff and then reason for ourselves why we did it, after the event.

My own experience backs that up. We duck because everyone else does. We go the wrong way at a busy tube station because we're following the crowd rather than rationalising which direction we should head in, the examples are numerous (of me doing something without thinking about it, that is...)
This has lessons for marketing and communications of all hues.

Mark also has something of a challenge for the evolutionary model of groups in group forming network theory that I describe in Communities of Purpose are the Business Units of the 21st Century, in that massive opportunities to create difference, in theory, appear to lead to homegeneous results in practice.
He points to the way every high street in the world, every shopping mall, is becoming more and more uniform as we pour more and more diverse products and services into them.

We do what we find useful.

Nutshell: we find useful what other people find useful.

Whether or not those examples transfer in all cases and particularly in all digital cases, remains to be proven.

But whatever the case the basics of how new stuff gets spread through populations remains challenging - that it is less about what we do to people (ie what we 'market' at them) and more about making the best of understanding the transmission mechanism.

I'm obviously a big believer in engaging with communities, enlisting their support by providing tools for a pre-existing community rather than thinking I can use tools to build one from scratch.

But this all brings us to the question of who are the influencers, what kind of people are the people who change behaviours in the herd? Are the hubs - those around whom many connections congregrate - the key. Or is it more likely to be those who forge the connections between distant hubs. Who are most critical to virality? (my best guess, for what it's worth, is the latter).

So I've started having a stab at who it is that is likely to have the greatest influence on the spread of an idea, of the take up of a service or a product.

And this is very much an idea in progress...

I'm going to call them 'Recogs.'

These are people who are:
Recognised by their peers as worthy of copying.
Recognisable: easily found because they are well connected (in two-way flows).
Recognisers. They can identify quickly what is useful to them from the myriad new things emerging
Recogniscient: Me stretching an idea... okay, what I'm getting at here is that they are good at passing on what they've identified; they are good at re-expressing what they know in a language others understand and will respond to (ie helping the next person know what they know in a process of repetition and amplification recog = reknow... told you I was stretching a point). They are very effective communicators (in ways which are valuable within their particular communities of purpose).

I see one immediate question. If identifying what is useful is important and what is useful differs for each diverse group, why is it that we see this tendancy towards homogenity? Is that pattern repeating in the digital world. It feels to me like it is not - hence the huge profusion and confusion of options and opportunities in digital space.

But I only seek to start the ball rolling so please do give it a prod in the next direction!

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?