Getting to the Tipping Point
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Sticky Ideas and the Tipping Point

Yesterday we talked about the three types of people necessary to move an idea from "that's interesting," to "I must HAVE it!" as it relates to helping nonprofits adopt new technologies. Today, I want to explore one more area from Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point that's relevant to this conversation--the concept of "sticky ideas."

While we need the right kinds of people in an early adopter group engaged in "selling" technology, for individuals to adopt the tech,  we need to make the concepts "sticky."

"Stickiness is a specific quality of the message that makes it memorable and     spurs people into action. Big budget advertisers buy memory space with     incessant repetition – it takes at least six repetitions for people to     remember a brand name. Stickiness is a low-budget equalizer that grabs     people’s imagination on the first or second exposure. A seemingly small or     trivial property of the message – the gold box on a record club coupon, a     campus map on an informational pamphlet, the mixing of puppets and real     people in Sesame Street, the literal narrative format of Blues Clues –     resonates with the audience and grabs and holds their attention. The     stickiness factor is a simple way of packaging a message that makes it     irresistible in the right circumstances." (from Booktalk)

So it's not just about getting the right people talking, it's also about packaging the message in a way that's irresistible. This is where we get into what Seth Godin calls a "viral" message. Says Seth:

For an idea to spread, it needs to be sent and received.

No one "sends" an idea unless:
a. they understand it
b. they want it to spread
c. they believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation, income, friendships) or their peace of mind
d. the effort necessary to send the idea is less than the benefits

No one "gets" an idea unless:
a. the first impression demands further investigation
b. they already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea
c. they trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time

So to me, here's the heart of what we need to do to help nonprofits  adopt those aspects of the new wave of technology that will benefit them:

  1. Within both individual organizations and the industry itself, find the mavens and start communicating with them about the technology. They will be the initial "senders" of the message, so we need to help them:
    • Understand the features and benefits of the new technologies.
    • Provide ways for them to experiment and "play around" with the new technologies. Remember, mavens are all about deep learning, so they need the opportunities to do that.
    • Help mavens see "what's in it for me" to spread the ideas.
    • Give them tools and strategies for spreading ideas that are easy for them to use and that will make sense to the connectors and salespeople with whom they'll be communicating. This means making sure that we create a foundation for understanding these concepts that's concrete and easy for non-technical types to grasp.
  2. Help the mavens connect with the connectors and salespeople so that the ideas can start germinating.
  3. Support all three groups by providing ongoing information and technical support, as well as venues for sharing ideas and the results of their work.

Of course, all three of these things are going on in various ways through the work of groups like N-Ten  and NetSquared. What we may need to do is look at the nature of the messages we're sending--are they "sticky" enough?--as well as who we're focusing our efforts on. Have we in fact really identified these three types and are we targeting them specifically? Or are we taking a more "build it and they will come" approach?

I hesitate to take too much of a "marketing" approach with all of this--I've never wanted to be in the business of convincing people to buy something whether they need it or not. But what I do think is important is to think about how we can move good tools into wider circulation and acceptance for those organizations that can benefit. For me, it's helpful to consider who I need to be talking to and what kinds of messages I need to be sending to help move the wave along.




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Great post. The stickiness factor is one of the things that we wrestle with all the time. What I like is the concept of spreading the stickiness around. For a non-profit that is taking advantage of the new tools that are available, spreading a video onto multiple sites can be so much more effective than just posting it on their own site. I just wish I could get some of the ones that I work with to hear that.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

You're right that spreading the stickiness is the challenge. I think that part of it is the time factor of having to post at different sites, which brings it back to needing to find the connectors within our external communities who can spread that viral idea for us.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

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