Monday, January 5, 2015

How Do You Create a Movement?

Assuming your idea has the potential that is.

The science behind social networks is not only intriguing from how we look at relationships but also how we consider the way ideas are spread...and conceivably how a "movement" that has its basis in an idea would be created.

Consider this simple social network you have and that you have an idea that you want to see turn into a dynamic movement that perpetuates itself across multiple social groups.

*Click image to open up interactive network

Simple enough to where YOU can relate to having this many friendships and that maybe some of your friends know each other.

If your friends are like mine then they have friends, some of them you don't know and although there's a greater chance you will meet them since you are friends with their friend, you don't know them now.  This dynamic of having a common relationship of some kind in common with someone else is known as a "degree of separation" between you and that person.  So in the network above we would say that Mike (because he is friends with you) has one degree of separation between John and Jane.

There is a theory in Social Network Science called "Small-World Theory".  The theory suggests that human society can be characterized by a network of people.  This may be more familiar to some with the theory of "Six degrees of separation", which basically says that human society can be six or few degrees of separation away by way of introduction.  Let's look at another graph and eventually show how this would play out in an idea being communicated to people we would have no way of knowing except by the randomness of relationship of someone we know who knows someone, who knows someone....

Let's consider the kind of idea that would create a movement spreading through relationships.  With the internet today I think many would argue that ideas with the potential of creating a movement could be spread electronically via social media, email, etc.  Let's just assume it takes personal interaction to spread an idea that's going to be cogent enough to create a movement (which could be argued just not here, not now).  Suppose I share this idea with Jane and John and they don't really care.  But I share it with Mike and he tells three of his friends.  Mary (one of Mike's friends) shares this idea with  many of her friends.  

*Click image to open up interactive network

So the idea that you were wanting to share has now been heard by a totally different group, all of whom you do not know.  Now consider Mary's friends.  This opens up an even larger network for this idea to communicated with their friends.  However, one of Mary's friend who is only an acquaintance to her has access to even more people than Mary.  Another question arises which is the strength of these connections.  Does the movement of an idea rely on the perceived strength of connections that Mary has to all her network or can the "weak" connections (those maybe that she doesn't value or people she doesn't think are going to give momentum to this idea) be beneficial to the spread of this idea?  Not all relationships are equal, but the communication of an idea is.  Consequently, Mary may open up more people who could take hold of this idea and create a movement from a weak connection...say Roselia.

*Click image to open up interactive network

Now Roselia also had a weak connection that she shared this idea with who happened to have just as many connections that he shared this idea.  You can see how a movement (at least what we will call one) can begin from YOU only having a few people who share your idea.  The spread of an idea into a movement however unlikely it is perceived, is countered by the potential relationships of those with whom it is shared.  So starting a movement starts with sharing ideas with a few people who are willing to share, who are willing to share, who are willing to share...