Also, at last, Merry and Judie have republished Stephen King's papers (no not that one) - one of the 2 fathers of the discipline. A tome I wish I'd had when I started...
But much of the discipline's thinking about the future is based on the world of marketing and communication remaining much the same as it has been (think how easily we take ideas like Word Of Mouth and turn them into the Persuasive media we always wanted to have). And the thinking's being done in the way that planning has always been done - by individuals with big brains...
I propose a hypothesis, summed up by changing our name from Homo sapiens, "wise man" to Homo mimicus, "mimicking man". Many animals mimic each other's behaviour but we do it more often and with greater fidelity. Our compulsive copying encodes collective knowledge into our society, and it is really our society that possesses humanity's "intelligence".
Consider two islands, identical except that one has a population of highly intelligent but vain apes, while the has a population of gregarious dimwits that love mimicking each others' actions.
The "sapiens" are always inventing marvellous gadgets but their vanity is such that they will never us another's clever idea.
It is only by accident that a dimwit discovers that poking a honey-coated stick into a hollow log will pull out some delicious termites. But, seeing this many mimicus copy it. Some of the copied actions improve the chances of survival of the sub-population performing them.
Which species is most likely to develop megacities or rocket ships? I'd back the dimwits.
Mass behaviour is a complex phenomenon, based on the interaction of individuals out there.
It's like a constantly swirling tidal system - a behavioural soup: changes in behaviour within the population seem to arise mostly from within the system, rather than from without. They are endogenous rather than exogenous
Changes happen mostly without us.
So before you try to make folk in your organisation or outside it do something in particular, ponder briefly how the tides shaping their behaviour are running.
And how you might work with (rather than against) these forces that are so much more powerful than you or I will ever be
Essentially he and the team have developed a fiendishly simple means to understand the underlying nature of the Social Networks through which a behaviour spreads: to characterise them as either random, small-world or scale-free (not, as the physicist might do, to describe the specifics at time T1 as the specific connections are constantly in flux - remember the 2 kinds of measurement?)
What interests me here is the advance that PO's analytics represent: it's a great HERD technique to help set strategy by and a shame neither the Home Office nor their comms advisers had access to Paul's piece. I wonder what they might have done, if they had...
For some time now, I've been arguing that it's not possible for any individual to be a reliable witness to their own lives, to explain how and why they do what they do. However plausible the evidence and however sensitive the analysis.
Here's a nice description from an old debate in the letters pages of NS about Free Will that explains why:
'...If "I" equals my conscious self - let's call her the "brat" - my free will must be limited, because most of what goes on in my brain isn't directly available to the brat. The brat is full of herself, likes to think she's the whole story. From the point of view of the rest of the brain, the brat may be a party trick that got out of hand.
The brat disrespects the rest of my brain. It's where the grunge comes from. If it makes a good call, it's "just instinct". (The brat is selective in claiming responsibility, and frequently confuses labels with explanations.)
If "I" am my total self - body, brain and yes, brat - I probably do have some measure of free will. If the brat would calm down and try listening, perhaps she could get a better idea of how decisions are really made round here' (Marianne Vespry)
And of course the brat don't know - is in denial, maybe? - about the influence of others, so asking an individual about that is not going to be as much help as it seems either.
Recently a number of conversations about understanding how things spread and how to measure this, there's one common misunderstanding I keep tripping over (my misunderstanding as much as my conversation partners). The reason for blogging on it today is that I think it has much broader resonance to all management and marketing metrics.
So what is this misunderstanding? It's a running together of two kinds of measuring activities and is best crystallised by Paul and Alex as the difference between Physicist measurement and Practical measurement.
The former deals in precision, with describing a particular thing as closely as possible; the latter in classes of things, in understanding what kind of thing we have.
The former is driven by measurement for its own sake and largely indifferent to the the thing being measured; the latter is interested in the thing being measured and shaping it.
The former is really useful for engineering activities; the latter for doing things.
Of course, the latter requires a set of ideas about how the world is (a map, if you like), whereas the former assumes that measurement itself will reveal reality and indicated action.
Ask yourself when you next approach measurement which side of this divide you are on.
As Marx once commented about History and historians, the point of the game is not to describe the world (physics) but to change it.
A thought then for other business leaders (and those advising them):
How sure are you that the consumer behaviour on which your business' success depends is that different from that of the music biz? However hard you try and whatever sound management levers you pull, isn't luck a big part - the largest part - of your success?
And if you accept that, how does that change how you go about things? And how your bonus is constructed?
The plot turned on a number of Herdy kind of things (like how easy it is to fall in line with what those around you are feeling and acting or how unreliable our accounts of our own behaviour are post hoc) but the central device that drove the alien possession plot was this: how spooky it is when somebody repeats what you say (repeats what you say) - everything you say (everything you say) and then starts (starts) to (anticipate what you say...)
In other words, when the copying mechanism that shapes so much of our lives is made visible and intentional, we get that uncanny feeling. It seems to be important that each of us sustain the impression that we are in control of our own destiny - that we are capable of escaping The Other [Freud]. Have you ever been on a date with someone who's done their NLP sales training?
Today's free gifts: go here to watch the episode again in the next 6 days (UK only). Alternatively, here's a fantastic updated compendium of Dr Who links (and source of the piccie here)
Interesting buzz-monitoring thing the BBC have launched to keep us abreast of what we (rather than the powers that be) think is interesting or valuable in music today.
The BBC Sound Index is an aggregator of music searches, chat, downloads etc.
However novel it is I suspect that - like the old fashioned charts it looks to replace - it will shape what we listen to, talk about or download (as Duncan would suggest).
At least in the short-term (not sure the buzz around the Ramones would have anticipated their long term influence, though...there's a difference between short and long-term here). Also as was pointed out to me last night there may or may not be a correlation between the buzz and behaviour...
Interesting innovation though (adding depth to a tv show) but I've got to say I'm with Darren wanting to see and play with the data. Maybe that's the geek in me...
BTW Learned recently that it was Johnny R who counted every number in, not Tommy (the drummer) or Joey or Dee Dee. Another blow for musicians in the titanic struggle with drummers
When we think about how ideas or behaviours spread through a particular population, we naturally tend to focus only on "our" thing - the idea or behaviour that we want folk to adopt. We talk about the thing's stickiness, we think about adoption only in terms of what matters to us - as a yes/no thing. This is all understandable as the thing that matters is the thing that matters to us.
The point is that this thinking is at the expense of all the other things that are spreading through that population at the same time that aren't so important to us. As we live in a social soup, with ever greater degrees of connectedness, this just seems the wrong way to think about spread.
Rather than it being like tossing a pebble on a pond and waiting to watch the ripples spread, it's really more useful to think of things like this: a paddling pool with lots of noisy kids, splashing around. As Tom Stoppard put it in Arcadia, "it's really hard to hear the tune".
Let's have a look at how a number of things seem to spread rather than just ours (this might tell us something useful about how to help ours spread faster/further)
Oh, and let's try a bit more humility - less "stickiness", more slippiness, maybe? More what the kids in the pool find interesting/refreshing than what we do to them ?
BTW can anyone remember the smell of those plastic paddling pools? All hot and grassy?
An amusing story today about what UK security services discovered in a trawl of social media sites to see how vulnerable British military personnel might be to terrorist activity.
Apparently they found 2000 pics of British soldiers in drag and quite a few of them having sex...
Not sure anyone should be surprised at this but it clearly wasn't what the spooks were after (go here for the squaddie take on this) but this story seems like an interesting twist on the whole issue of exhaust data from social media
Just remember that while the data you are looking for is what you are looking for, there's a whole lot of other stuff going on which might well challenge your assumptions...
For those of you outside the UK, I need to explain something here. None of our home country football (soccer) teams have qualified for the European Championship which starts in the next few days.
Lots of marketing money (that was hoping for a home in a soccer-related campaign) is floating around at the moment, looking a bit lost (Update: just seen a Panasonic ad with half the England football team in it)
But the Mars promotion "Mars balls get Britain playing" looks like a good go at doing something that I find myself telling clients to do: give them something to do together...
There's a great tie up with the Sun newspaper which - in addition to advertising for the promotion - is encouraging us to get out and kick a (Mars) ball together (rather than wait for our teams to get knocked out by Serbia or the Dutch).