Connecting ideas with communities

I use the chasm model to explain my professional work of 1) seeing what is ready to cross the chasm by 2) staying connected to the innovators & being an early adopter so that 3) I can help mainstream organizations. It’s a good graphic summary of my consulting practice.

Five years ago I looked at a couple of models (Rogers & Gladwell) in the Dummies Guide to Change and came up with a model on how you might be able to effect a change in a population. It wasn’t tested, it was just an idea. One of the core ideas was the law of the few, or the notion that a few key types of people help to speed social communication. As Charlene Croft puts it [looking at how Twitter is used]:

Connectors are individuals who know lots of people and who use those connections to their advantage.  Connectors are people who have invested in social, cultural and identity capital and who can convert those intangible resources into pretty much whatever they decide to.

Mavens are the senders and receivers of information.  They are the people who always have the pulse on the good deals and breaking stories of the day.  Mavens are the trendsetters and the people who you turn to to find out about this thing or that.  Citizen Journalists are types of Mavens, often scooping the mainstream media in reporting “from the ground”

Salesmen are the persuaders of society.  They are the people who dedicate a great deal of their lives to selling people on their ideas.

I figured that if you want to foster large-scale change in an organization or even a network, then you would:

  1. connect the right Mavens with the potential Innovators,
  2. target the Early Adopters via the Connectors and then
  3. find the Salespeople who will influence the Early Majority

I also figured that the Late Majority and the Laggards were not worth the effort, time and resources.

I’ve noticed that this is what has happened with some of the ideas that I’ve worked with in those five ideas. For example, informal learning in the organization was an idea five years ago. Jay Cross (maven) published one of the first business books on the subject in 2006 – Informal Learning. Many connectors, especially educational technology and business bloggers, took the idea and spread it. Then in 2009 we see it being discussed as the core idea of the ASTD opening keynote, and moving into the mainstream by several salespeople (vendors, service providers) looking for business opportunities.

This is just a working model but it may help in looking at how you can get your new ideas into the mainstream.

5 Responses to “Connecting ideas with communities”

  1. Michael Gambale

    Hi Harold,

    Enjoyed reading your post about the way people are connected (Innovators, etc). Although I agree with what you have written, I believe there is an opportunity to see more value as these graphs change over time. Imagine some of these social networking diagrams within an animation where as time passes the rate of change (change in connections, data in the form of keywords, etc) changes. I think the value is looking at these over time ( the same way meteorologists look at weather patterns over time). Just as in the weather, within social networks there are many variables, and there is a deep complexity with connecting innovators with early adopters. A weather report of sorts is needed to analyze whether an organization is effectively using their workforce and allowing their employees to informally connect with one another. So imagine that within a certain organization a social graph over time shows there is a tremendous amount of activity (chat, email, meetings, etc) with innovators and early adopters but no activity among the early majority. The social graph changes over time might indicate that management has rejected many project proposals for the company to experiment in different technologies. This is the value of looking at social graphs over time (with overlapping data like internal company decisions, company performance reports, employee turnover, press releases, etc). The connectedness in context with other information is the key to showing an organization can be reshaped for the better.

    Thanks for your post. I am interested in knowing what you think.

    -Mike Gambale

  2. Harold Jarche

    Excellent idea, Mike. I wish I had the technical savvy to create a dynamic map like that. I think some of the software for social network analysis (SNA) does that.

  3. Michael Gambale

    Yes, some of the SNA software does sort of do what I mentioned. I am not much at good at drawing maps that i mentioned either (but I am looking at some tools now).

    The best thing about this dynamic map is that as the year go by you won’t have to draw it. There will tools from companies like Google that just plug in all your data (data they have and data would import). There are of course moral and privacy issues that bubble up here when it comes to the public domain. But for companies who by their own right own all of the information and activity among their employees (email, chat , corporate social networks like Newsgator Social Sites), it makes sense that this would be a great dynamic graph to utilize for increasing collaboration and innovation.


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