An understanding of the research on how and why groups of people change can lead to better ways of organizing as a society or an organization. For instance, small groups of committed individuals who want to influence society need a significant presence to make that change happen: twenty-five percent.
“When a minority group pushing change was below 25% of the total group, its efforts failed. But when the committed minority reached 25%, there was an abrupt change in the group dynamic, and very quickly the majority of the population adopted the new norm … “And if they’re just below a tipping point, their efforts will fail. But remarkably, just by adding one more person, and getting above the 25% tipping point, their efforts can have rapid success in changing the entire population’s opinion.” —Science Daily 2018
However, if the people have an unshakeable belief, such as religious zealots or fervent believers, then you need fewer committed people: ten percent.
“Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society … An important aspect of the finding is that the percent of committed opinion holders required to shift majority opinion does not change significantly regardless of the type of network in which the opinion holders are working. In other words, the percentage of committed opinion holders required to influence a society remains at approximately 10 percent, regardless of how or where that opinion starts and spreads in the society.” —Science Daily 2011
Whereas inside an organization there are ways to identify the influencers and in so changing their behaviour you need even fewer people highly engaged: three percent.
“The three percent rule to influence key influencers is an outcome of years of delving data captured through organizational network analysis and people analytics. The [Innovisor] data capture who spreads energy and who is sought for advice and are used to identify the fewest number of employees who can reach the largest possible share of the organization (the ‘key influencers’). Once the marginal increase in reach for every added employee stagnates, no more employees are included in the group of key influencers. In all the years of identifying key influencers in small local to some of the largest global organizations in the world, it showed that if you can identify the right 3%, you can reach 85% of the other employees.” —Analytics in HR
Context matters, as well as an understanding of the complexities of the situation. However these numbers show how sometimes major change happens when common sense may tell us that not enough people believe in it. Just look at how some political movements have reached a ‘tipping point’ in recent memory.