The current unrest in Africa and the Middle East brought to mind Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling novel, “The Tipping Point.” Why is it that so many people in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Iran (etc) have suddenly risen up in great numbers to protest decades of oppression? There has been some talk about the impact of social media like Facebook and Twitter being key in organizing many of these people and protests. But even when these websites have been shut down or blocked by people in power, the protests have continued to escalate. How can you suddenly take simple ideas and bring about action and change?
In Gladwell’s book he explains his theory about how ideas, products, and messages spread like viruses and become epidemics. He explains that the “power of context” is important for these epidemics to occur because timing and conditions need to be just right. These epidemics are also influenced by three specific types of people: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.
Connectors are people that have huge social networks and have a special ability to bring people together. They are involved in many different communities and interact with various types of people. Connectors would be the people responsible for finding those that were ready to protest and bringing them together.
Mavens are able to connect us with new information and they know how to share it. They would be the ones sharing the information about what is happening in other counties and using the social media sites to disclose where the protests are taking place. Mavens are motivated by solving others problems and, often times, this will solve their own.
Salesmen are probably the most important group of people in the current situations in Africa and the Middle East. How do you convince people to stand up to an oppressive and perhaps violent government? These people are usually charismatic and make you want to agree with them.
No matter what industry you are in, connecting the right people, sharing the right information, and motivating them towards a common purpose is a challenging process that takes deliberate time and effort but can yield impressive results!