To Drive Change Go To Where The Energy Already Is!

I get it. You’re excited and passionate about change. You want to bring it about as fast as possible. You want to move fast, break things if you have to, because the need is dire and the matter is pressing. Sleep is for the weak. You can rest when you die.

So you go big. You work to create buzz and excitement, through vigorous communication and exciting events that attract big crowds. You want to create a sense of urgency, so that everyone else can see what you see, that this issue is one that they can’t just look away from, that deserves not only their attention, but their passion and energy.

Most likely, you will fail.

Yes, you will create some excitement, but not only from supporters, but opponents as well, who will start working to undermine what you are trying to achieve in ways that are often dishonest, underhanded and deceptive. Every revolution inspires its own counterrevolution.

Now consider:

– Sociologist Everett Rogers’ “S-curve” research showed that it takes only 10%-20% of a system to adopt an innovation for rapid acceptance by the majority to follow.

– Professor Erica Chenoweth’s analysis of over 300 political revolutions in the past century finds that it only takes 3.5% of the population in a society actively participating to succeed, and many campaigns have prevailed with less.

– Recent research by sociologist Damon Centola at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that the tipping point for change is getting 25% of people in an organization on board.

There’s no need to try to convince everyone at once. We know from decades of research that change starts slowly, hits a tipping point and then accelerates. We also know that people are mostly influenced by those around them and that the best indicator of what we think and do is what the people around us think and do.

You get to choose the people you start with, so start with a majority. Identify people who are just as enthusiastic as you are and help them to succeed, so they can bring in others who can bring in others still. Get out of the business of selling an idea and into the business of selling success.

Transformational change is always built through small groups, loosely connected, but united by a shared purpose. So go to where the energy is. Identify those who are already on board, help them to connect and inspire them with purpose.

You don’t need to convince everyone at once.

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