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October 15, 2010

How to start a social movement

What does it take to start a social movement? This is the basic question underlying a huge amount of current research in computational social science, done mainly by computer scientists, who are trying to understand the dynamics of influence and how influence, whatever it is, shapes information flows through social networks. The computer scientists care about this question, I think, because they've read Malcolm Gladwell, or they've been told that's its important by advertising executives who have read him, and they want to know how to create viral marketing. (I guess they haven't read Duncan Watts.)

Digging through the data is hard, but conceptually, social movements are not so complicated that they can't be understood. Derek Sivers explains in this wonderfully amusing short (the beginning of the voiceover transcript is pasted below) why more than mere leadership is required to make a social movement:

[Sivers] If you've learned a lot about leadership and making a movement, then let's watch a movement happen, start to finish, in under 3 minutes, and dissect some lessons:

A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he's doing is so simple, it's almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow!

Now comes the first follower with a crucial role: he publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it's not about the leader anymore - it's about them, plural. Notice he's calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire...

Tip to Nikolaus.

posted October 15, 2010 03:26 PM in Humor | permalink


Nice video! Very funny people! :)

Posted by: Derek Tuman at October 20, 2010 06:41 AM

A leader needs to look ridiculous? I'm not sure I agree with that. Now, a leader has to not be afraid of looking ridiculous, but for goodness sake don't go out of your way to look ridiculous!

Posted by: Freelance Copywriter at October 31, 2010 10:10 AM