Thursday, 20 March 2014

“Not me! I’m not part of a herd!”

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

My book, Homo Imitans, is about bundling and un-bundling all the ingredients of social infection with behaviours at the core. I use the term of social infection to refer to social changes both inside the organization (i.e. the world of public and private business, as well as non-profit) and in the macro-social world. I will share with you the logic behind this and I will use the premise that there is a continuum between both worlds. We need to unbundle the components to understand and master them. Then we need to re-bundle them, put it all together again to orchestrate that change.

As you can already see, I have a passion for infections. I think there’s nothing better than a good epidemic. Blame it on my previous career as a practicing physician. If you are a manager or a leader in either of these worlds, you are also in the infection business. You may not know it yet, but this book is going to help you realize that this is the only hope you have of managing and leading successfully.

I want you to start thinking either like a good ‘patient zero’ (the term used in epidemiology to describe the first patient infecting others) or a social master of other ‘patients zero’. Yes, I do love epidemics.
In fact, I want to create epidemics of success inside and outside organizations. 

OK, so we will need to define success, I agree. And I, like you, have my own ethical filters for picking my epidemics. ‘Epidemic’ usually has a negative connotation, I know, but it doesn’t necessarily have to.

Look around. We are bound to each other by the things we do, the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, the mobile phones we use and a million other things that are a copy of what others do. You thought you made completely independent, deliberate and rational choices, but in reality you were infected by the social norms around you. And when these norms are not manifested physically around you, they are still in your head. Call it whatever you like. Social scientists use terms such as social contagion, social copying or social infections. Sometimes also more prosaic ones such as ‘herd behaviour’. I know what you are thinking: “Not me! I’m not part of a herd!” Yep, we don’t like it. Because accepting this reality feels like saying that we have surrendered our will, that one aspect of our being that makes us human. Herds are for
cattle, we have free will.

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