You do That, Too

Control over environment

There's a bit more than coincidence happening these days. Any given moment, you read about someone having said, written, or done something that someone else did. Crediting others has become more challenging given how everyone is exposed to similar information. Plus, speed is of the essence.

Never has there been a greater need to connect the stream with action: big challenges needing solutions and our collective brains. Yet, never before the need for feeling heard and in control of one's experience has been felt more.

This week alone, about three dozen people were breaking the news of the impending merger of AT&T and T-Mobile in my stream. None of the links contained additional insights.

As Tony Faustino replied to me on Twitter, one example of trail-blazing is: Sony pioneered music portability with the Walkman, but Apple reinvented it with iPod + iTunes — from a single device, to an ecosystem, one that has given us the App store.

That changes the game.

Everyone as the strategist and everyone as the speaker in front of the room is a telltale sign of the desire to control one's destiny and environment in an increasingly overwhelming set of challenges — in business, as well as personal life.

Massification of Influence 

The term influence comes from the Latin root that means tributary, which should give you a hint about it flowing "in" when there is interest. It is those who are influenced who decide. As social networks continue to go mainstream, so does the conversation about who is up there making stuff happen.

Which means people pick those they like to credit them with a topic. It helps when those people are likable, and have done something tangible that is easy to see. Simplifying information, speaking passionately about it, and being considered mainstream (the equivalent of "in fashion") do help.

It is not so much that the content in a post written on marketing as context building three full years ago is still news at SxSWi in 2011. If you studied the classics, you know how much has been written before us. Yet, we still think of our ideas as new. It's quite human to think that way.

The New Self-Help

A more interesting question than who has influence is why is influence? One of the areas we explored during the live session at SxSWi was gossip. Having something to talk about, especially if positioned as "new", makes the person telling the story interesting. It earns attention, even if temporary.

Why do people do it? Some of the reasons are to:

  • entertain
  • affect opinions
  • exchange information they deem important
  • point out and enforce social rules
  • learn from the mistakes of others

The line between gossip and rumor is thin. And while gossip is supposedly based upon facts, chances are the fact checking won't be in the cards. Rumors start when people look to test hypotheses to explain things they don't understand.

Starting new conversations or projects is harder than being relevant by jumping on the bandwagon. For all the talk about individual preferences and choices, we are still very much social in our behavior. Networks provide the opportunity to see what everyone else is doing. Piling on is social.

We desire to influence to exercise control over our environment, yet pay little attention to the fact that it is what influences us that controls it.


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