If you want to effectively manage and drive change, history suggests you need to create the tipping point where this will happen by creating, encouraging and empowering ‘change champions’ to bring the masses along.
In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell brilliantly defines the concept of the tipping point phenomenon, whereby if enough people are engaged in an activity/idea/trend/behaviour it starts to spill over into the mainstream and the masses begin to follow. The concept is, of course, totally applicable to organisations - as change is initiated by the brave, others will follow. And at ON-Brand! we believe this tipping point can be actively managed to drive the right kind of change and at a faster pace. More on that in a minute.
Firstly take a look at this weird and wonderful video taken at a big music event in the USA, that brilliantly demonstrates the tipping point in action. You’ll see in the video that as people feel that enough other people are doing something that is interesting and worth doing, they too feel comfortable, encouraged and inspired to also join in. In this case it all begins with just one guy, then two and once the third person joins the dance, suddenly it became a signal to all others that it was OK to join in and they do - en masse!
The video nicely illustrates that in many situations, the arrival of the third person is such a critical stage to give momentum to change and get a movement of thought or action underway. There will always be thought/action initiators who tend to be of a certain personality and disposition which enables them to boldly make the first move, however, for those who will never be initiators, if they can stop worrying about standing out, and what others will think of them, they very well may be the tipping point to get change underway. It is easy to follow a larger group, but if we had more of the first, second and 'third guy’ in organisations, we’d get to a better place faster.
Renowned thought leader Seth Godin also commented on the video noting that it’s only when ‘guy #3’ joins the group that it starts to become a movement. “Before him, it was just a crazy dancing guy and then maybe one other crazy guy. But it's guy #3 who made it a movement. Initiators are rare indeed, and it's scary to be the leader. Guy #3 is rare too, but it's a lot less scary and just as important”. And as for Guy #49? he is “irrelevant as there are no bravery points for being part of the mob”. Seth went on to say that “We need more guy #3's.”
The big question is how do organisations foster ‘Guy #3’ when they want to initiate change? How do they identify and support the leaders who can inspire other to follow?
Malcolm Gladwell would call Guy #3 either a ‘Connector’ or a ‘Salesman’. In an organisation we would call Guy #3 a ‘Frontrunner’ – those who bring people together, deliver a compelling message and help shape conversations and align behaviours to where an organisation needs them to be. They are 'encouragers' and 'empowerers' and can create the tipping point whereby others willingly and enthusiastically come along for the ride.
So how do you foster these people:
1. Empower them with the belief and ability to make a difference. They need to know that they can, and will, be supported from above.
2. Provide them with a platform to shine. Give them opportunities to demonstrate their commitment and enthusiasm in front of others.
3. Reward and Recognise. Follow the simple rules of good parenting – focus on, and reward 'role model' behaviour. Before long, the rest of the organisation catches on and a whole lot of people want to be like them.
So if you want change in your organisation, identify your Guys or Gals #3, give them some direction, outline the type of conversations and behaviours you want, give them time to try different things out, and let them loose! One of the most successful components of our culture change framework is our Frontrunner strategy so we're happy to talk more about it and what you need to put in place to create the momentum you need.
One Executive recently said this about their Frontrunners...
"A large part of the results we have achieved are due to the dedication and commitment to changing our culture from all of our people, but in particular our Frontrunners. So on behalf of the Exec and myself, I want to recognise and celebrate our Frontrunners, both past and present. You guys are awesome!'
PS: The book The Tipping Point - How little things can make a big difference is well worth reading. Explains so much of what happens on our planet and why.
Also take a look at It's time to create a change movement. Let us show you how...