“The Tipping Point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate” (Gladwell, 2002).
It is probably true… that understanding how to “start a movement” is a key leadership quality at all levels within organisations. Why is it that somethings tip and others do not; why some approaches are adopted and become habitual and others not? It is also probably true that movements start when the conditions are right and you emotionally connect, tell stories, ignite action, reach the tipping point and propagate the conditions for contagion, so that ideas spread, are well adopted and become typical.
Indeed it might be… that those organisations who create movements by seeking small but precisely targeted pushes turn the Flywheel (Collins), so that the organisation becomes and stays great. This is focused, deliberate change and improvement, based on an understanding of how to start and propagate movements and trigger change that sticks. Great organisations take bets where the odds suggest that change will be well adopted, aligned to core purpose, impactful and importantly … irreversible. Great organisations deliberately stay close to their flywheel and make a few well-placed bets on a few key irreversible strategies that matter and make the difference … it is around these that great leaders create, trigger, propagate and sustain movements.
However…it is probably true that education is riddled with dead-end initiatives and unsustained changes – the consequence is either a wasteland of innovation or multiple initiatives; where a thousand flowers are allowed to bloom and wither often in rapid succession; all of which has a damaging impact on the credibility of the organisation’s leadership.
Which beg the questions… What are the conditions required for a movement to start? AND how, as leaders, can we start, propagate and embed a movement/change based on key leveraging strategies that stick and accelerate improvement?
The importance of the firsts followers, the lone nut and creating conditions for movements to thrive…
What if… we understood how movements start and remind ourselves of this great clip and piece of observation from Derek Sivers … how to start a movement…
Derek Sivers: Blog: https://sivers.org/ff
“…remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers as equals, making everything clearly about the movement, not you. … be public. … be easy to follow! …remember leadership is over-glorified. … It was the first follower that transforms a lone nut into a leader. … there is no movement without the first follower. …the best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow. … so when you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.” (Derek Sivers)
What if…, as leaders, we…
“…take responsibility for enabling others to achieve a shared purpose.” (Sinek)
…understanding that by enabling others to achieve and by creating conditions for connection and collaboration we provide the opportunity for movements to start.
“What happens when you build an organisation that is flat and open? what happens when you expect a lot and trust the people you work with?” (Seth Godin)
What if… we were aware that great leadership is about creating a climate where movements happen; that these need to be well focused, but trust that it is amazing that spreads. What if… we recognised that change and movements do not take hold where there is disorganisation; where an organisation is…
- and prone to inaction
What if… sustained change and the conditions for movements to grow occur where an organisation is…
- Values initiative
- Moves to action?
“The role of the leader is to enable, facilitate, and cause peers to interact in a focused manner…but still only a minority of systems employ the power of collective capacity.” (Fullan, 2010)
Igniting and propagating a movement that sticks…
What if… we understood that the spread of a new idea, strategy or approach is determined by the adoption patterns of this small group of ‘socially infectious’ early adopters and connectors in an organisation that enable the reaching of a tipping point (Malcolm Gladwell). Who are the Connectors in your organisation? or the sneezers…
What if… we knew who our “sneezers” are? After all it is the sneezers who “unleash the idea virus” (Seth Godin) These are the people who are listened to, who are respected and admired. If you can build up a core of evangelizers among these sneezers, Godin says, your idea is much more likely to spread. What if… we understood how ideas become adopted by a population…perhaps then we would be more successful at starting and creating movements…
What if… it is about 16%?
Maloney’s 16% Rule: Once you have reached 16% adoption of any innovation, you must change your messaging and media strategy from one based on scarcity, to one based on social proof, in order to accelerate through the chasm to the tipping point.
How many organisations fail to switch approach for new strategies and simply decide to re-invent or scrap it? Do we invest enough time in ‘social proof’ a demonstration of the effectiveness of the new strategy – measuring and communicating the impact? What if we understood that 16% is a significant tipping point; that point where the early adopters become interested – we then have a movement (if we seek and communicate ‘social proof’)
What if… as senior leaders within organisations the actual tipping point is far beyond 16% – perhaps >80% after which the movement is embedded, change is sustained and habits become irreversible.
What if… we re-set our movements to ensure that there is on-going improvement that is fit for the time and focused on maximum effectiveness. An evolving, well positioned and aligned movement may require re-birth to maintain momentum of improvement and avoid plateauing:
Diagram credit: Innovation-Management.org
Create the time, space and opportunity to connect and collaborate; creating the conditions for movement to trigger, propagate and become habitual.
What if … we understood the power of connection; actually the power of purposeful connection and collaboration. Remembering that connection means nothing without a commitment to move to action. What if… we understood that an organisation cannot remain agile and innovative with a purely hierarchical structure (right side of diagram). That great organisations maintain a connected structure that supports innovation, grows its individuals and ensures that there is collective ownership and opportunity to drive the organisation forward (left side of diagram) (John Kotter). It is within this structure that your, connectors, sneezers, early adopters have the opportunity to follow and create a movement…remembering that it is the first followers that transform a lone nut into a leader and a fad into a movement.
What if… this also recognised that decision making is better done nearer to the action; that this is what empowers individuals to commit and convert into habit those things that make the greatest difference. (David Marquet) What if… we understood that through connection and collaboration we grow resources and opportunity; we gain insight, ideas and innovation. This challenges that traditional assumption that change just costs time and money.
Getting out of the cave and inviting peers into our cave provides perspective and enables more deliberate focused innovation; we increase our odds of instigating the right movements around the things that matter…
What if… we get out of our cave and connect so that we create opportunity and increase our view of what is going to have the most impact; increasing our odds of success. What if this also involves inviting others into our cave to provide peer review.
Image Credit: wallpaperweb
Tell stories that connect emotionally and tell of a bright future, trigger movements and compel people to action?
What if… we shared stories that motivate: Stories that are about SELF, are about NOW, are about US and are about the FUTURE. People respond to stories; how often do leaders use stories to make an emotional connection? We are pre-disposed to responding to stories; we understand our world through story and strong leaders understand this; and will passionately link stories to the WHY and the moral purpose.
“The Story is everything.” (Spacey)
What makes a good story?… Kevin Spacey highlights the need for… CONFLICT, AUTHENTICITY and AUDIENCE. Stories create emotional connection:
“People change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking, than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.” (Kotter)
John West-Burnham highlights the importance of describing a preferred future.
“Successful and credible leaders are able to tell compelling and credible stories about the future – they are leaders to the extent that people accept and value the future they describe.” (John West-Burnham, 2012)
Stories bind movements together they give reasons to start movements, they tell of a worthwhile future and they connect emotionally; it is the story that moves people to action.
Inspired leaders, organisations and teams find their deepest purpose – their ‘why?’ – and attract followers through shared values, vision and belief.” “this has the ability to transform the fortunes of a group or enterprise – activating individuals, providing a cultural glue, guiding behaviours and creating an overall sense of purpose and personal connection.” (James Kerr, Legacy, 2013)
Movements are more likely to take hold and become habitual if we KISS and avoid complexity – Complexity unravels good ideas, diminishes adopters and stops ideas sticking.
What if… we understood that we needed to “Keep it simple, stupid?” The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated. Complexity is the enemy to creating a movement or implementing change. Where strategies mis-fire, or change is not adopted, or where there is limited consistency and low habit development, complexity is likely to be the cause. What of we… also recognised that:
What if.. we also understood that when a thousand flowers bloom we are not deliberate or focused enough on propagating and developing those ideas that really matter that really make a difference. Innovation and movements need to be few, deliberate, leveraging, focused, contagious, simple and compelling.
Wide held and owned set of beliefs in what is possible maintain movements and make them stick. Great organisations have deep, clear and simple beliefs, that are widely held and applied. These underpin the success of any movement or change. Where change or a movement mis-aligns with the underlying belief it will mis-fire.
What if… there is a wide-held and embedded belief in the organisation that we can do things that are amazing? The type of belief that enables and levers success from deep within the organisation – a belief that lives and breaths – it is felt, insidious and ubiquitous; it is in the air.
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” (Anatole France)
“Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.” (Henry Ford)
Making movements stick. “Fire bullets then cannonballs” (Collins)
What if… we sought stickability of change and movements? Not only does change or movement need to be compelling, it also needs to stick around. Creating a movement or instigating change should consider if it will stick, a year, two years, three years… if not, don’t launch or invest energy and time, it is futile. The stickiness and sustainability of change is key; it needs to have legs! Education is a wasteland of terminated, washed-up initiatives. This is a real problem, because where organisation are initiative rich and these rarely take hold, the leadership reputation is eroded and damaged; further innovation becomes less likely to stick.
What if… we fired bullets first to test the water and then fully back those ideas that have the potential to be sticky, by firing cannonballs.
““the stickiness factor”, is a unique quality that compels a phenomenon to “stick” in the minds of people and influences their future behaviour.”
What if… we understood how to make ideas stick? and we considered the six principles of sticky ideas (“Made to Stick”, Chip and Dan Heath).
- we would understand the dynamics of how to start, propagate and sustain a movement (change) around the few things that matter; the few things that make the difference.
- we would better understand that it is more about the followers than the lone nut leader. That moving from 16% to 80% is the measure of success as well as understanding that re-invigorating change is required to avoid plateauing and sustain a trajectory of improvement.
- we would create the connection and conditions for movements to start, ensuring the checks and balances are in place so that we back those movements that are deliberate, effective and well targeted… avoiding a thousand flowers blooming and then wilting.
- We would use story to emotionally connect and move people to action.
- We would take bets on a few ideas and strategies that have a high chance of success. where success is measured in sustainability, adoption, impact and whether the change will become irreversible (or evolvable in the same direction) Will this be in place – consistently applied in 3 years time?
- We understood the key components for making change stick; the stickability factor.
- We would KISS and avoid complexity; because complexity kills movements.
- We would get out of the cave and invite peers into our cave more to get perspective and better understand the movements we need to create; having that wider view.
- we would align belief about what is possible .. about what the future could be .. and that this aligned to a deeply held moral purpose .. that recognise that everything is possible .. so long as we are willing to do whatever it takes.
“Great leadership is the ability to place bets on the few things that matter; that have impact – great leaders use a wide-view to create and propagate movements that reach tipping points, achieve irreversible change and lasting impact. This enables a metronomic and efficient turning of the flywheel.”