Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting to where people are - the Connector, Maven and Persuader show. 

One sidebar argument in our current Leadership Dance is an interesting marketing question. How do ideas get circulated so that they stick in people minds? As the jargon goes, how to make the ideas ‘sticky’ so that they generate a ‘epidemic’ or become a ‘meme’.

There are various skills needed to bring this about, and the people we are trying to persuade react in different ways.

Studies of how ideas, (or new technologies) become accepted in society suggest that there are different tribes out there. Two of these are innovators and early adaptors. Innovators get the new stuff into existence, Early Adaptors snap it up as soon as they can get their hands on it. But neither group is big enough to dominate a society. What you have to do to get an idea (or product) to dominate is to persuade the ‘early majority’ people. These people worry about how novelties fit into their existing complex lives.

It is a big jump from the early adaptors to the early majority. The current iPhone launch offers good examples of this process.

In politics the exciting new ideas enthuse the early adaptors. The big skill is how to transfer this onwards. The arguments that persuade the pioneers often will not work for the majority of people. You need people with particular skills to move ideas on, and it is perhaps rare for one person to have them all.

One classification of these skills is threefold: into connectors, the mavens and the persuaders.

Connectors know who to talk to and can introduce other people to people they need to know. They help establish other people networks which they can utilise in turn if needed. The networked communication makes the new idea familair and safer.

Mavens are people who accumulate knowledge. They are the vigilantes in society who stop power groups exploiting people because they are immersed in details of their area of expertise. They make it easier for accurate information to become available, and build up trust.

And Persuaders can do their task all sorts of ways, sometimes by body language alone – they just give a positive impression. Feeling good about an idea makes it easier to accept.

Now to our present leadership choice. Really we want someone with all three skills equally. This is unlikely, so what balance do we see in our candidates and which of these balances best suites our needs?

We need all three in our overall leadership mix, that is for sure.

If you want to tear these ideas apart have a look at Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘The Tipping Point’ for more material.

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