Monday, 4 August 2008

The creation of social tipping points: Rethinking influence (Part 3) – from the second edition of Viral Change™ (2008

The next blog entries over the next weeks feature some added pages to Viral Change – Second edition which will be in the market towards mid August. This is part 3 of these series

The Critical Mass model. It is easy to observe that many social changes, from fads to fashions to internal organisational routines (sub-cultures, ways of doing that have become ‘part of the furniture’), seem to appear without being triggered by an Opinion Leader. When critical masses start to behave in ‘phase transition mode’, like a single node as described before, and several of those critical masses collide, social change ‘suddenly appears’. Let’s take a simplistic example such as the use of the new Apple iPod. Mary bought one because she liked the feel of it and because she loved how different this thing is. Peter bought it because in his peer group at the advertising agency where he works most people have one. John is addicted to Apple any way so the iPod was a no-brainer. Pauline and Sharon are close friends and they just both did the same. Martin always buys anything new, sexy and slick - the iPod was a predictable choice. Uncle Peter bought two for his nephews after talking to a friend who did the same for his daughter’s birthday. Picture all this, multiply it by a factor of 100 or 1000 and inject another million reasons and you have a critical mass of people walking/sitting around with two white umbilical cords in their ears. There was no obvious Opinion Leader trigger; they all acted as a mini-Opinion-Leader in their own merit by imitating, social copying or conforming to the norm (either a social norm or a norm in their minds). In a simple way, the social change equation here is:

Critical Mass x Critical Mass = Change

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