Be a thought leader - Yawn

Can we change the world - How ?

Obviously the answer is yes - everything we do changes the world. But sometimes we forget and so overlook tiny opportunities. And tiny opportunities can really change the world. Naturally, it is really satisfying when we can be significant, or even measurable.

Some people are paid to change our behaviour - the list includes (for good or bad) schoolteachers, politicians, energy managers and naturally marketing people and company leaders.  And thought leadership is available for all...

Unpaid people do it to (often to distil a set of values), parents, friends, colleagues, team-mates and so on. Their reward is a job well done, a feeling of success, of having improved a social condition or simply...

"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded." Ralph Waldo Emerson

I noticed that when my bog posts offers specific positive and helpful advice more people are likely to share them or "like" them. It pleases me when my effort is measurable by tools like Google Analytics, if not perhaps greatly significant (and I also think this is evidence that the people who read my blog posts are generally decent types - but that's another story).

So to say it would be great if all our actions were useful, measurable and significant is rather obvious - it's what we live for.  However, usually we have to be happy with what we get.

Sometimes your work is amplified

On a good day when we spread good ideas there can be a cascade effect, when the people who share or tweet an idea or set an example that draws in even more people - which in turn means they are having a good and quantifiable effect too.

Today, I want to discuss one aspect of how these tiny opportunities, when lost or not taken, can amount to huge losses. So attention to these ideas are important for your success. As ever I will frame this in the context of energy management, but I will use examples that are true to everyday life for everyone.

The basis is simple - the so-called viral effects of an action. This is what anyone who is trying to promote change is in part dependent on. People often forget is that in every day life they transmit ideas and receive them almost completely sub-consciously. To make clear what I mean, I want to try a thought experiment.

Imagine doing this today (perhaps this is something you do every day - which would be outstanding!):

You are on crowded public transport, you simply stand up and quietly offer your place to someone who looks like they could use it.

Now imagine looking around you and seeing other people following your example. When it happens it's called thought leadership.

Thought leadership

Thought leadership feels really good (go ahead really try!).  As often as not thought leadership is unspoken and simply a response to social clues.

So I am not talking about a video going "viral" on youtube, which is rather obvious, though the ideas behind it are related, insted I am talking about how an idea goes viral.

Viral effects take place when behaviours change. Since changing behaviour is one of the pillars of improving society (and energy management) it is clear that  teamwork and community are important.

Is yawning - thought leadership ?

If you yawn, when nobody is looking, it is pretty uninteresting. However, when you yawn when people are looking the effect can be highly amusing.

I don't know why chain reaction yawning takes place - but it does.

According to this Washington Post article it crosses species boundaries and suggests an empathy (believable) and that mimicry is a compliment (this is how fashions work)

So how do we make it go viral ?

Since I work in energy management (or more precisely helping other people manage energy), and because people like me work with data we often forget just how important teamwork and community are.

So today, let's do something interesting. We are going to do some thinking about "soft energy management" (energy behaviour change) and how to make it work better.

However, as promised this applies to the CEO of your company, a scriptwriter in Hollywood or simply to every home-owner that pays those utility bills their children run up. It doesn't matter what behaviour you are promoting (I assume only value - waste reduction, frugality, conservation or simple kindness)

Is setting a good example enough ?

"Soft energy management" is about introducing behaviour change - switching off lights, turning the thermostat down, putting a pullover on instead of complaining about the cold.

These all require a certain effort (however small), and so there needs to be a promise of reward to cover that cost. So the promise spoken or otherwise does need five things when (and by whom) it is delivered:
  1. Creditability - If I do this I will be a better person, look good, save the world
  2. Learn-ability - The opportunity to do this will arise again - and it looks easy 
  3. Peer Authority - Get your CEO to very publicly turn an unnecessary light off, or in the school get the cool kids to pick up litter (trash)
  4. Publicity - Be seen to act - it isn't just about a poster that will curl at the edges, examples are far stronger and communicate more clearly
  5. Reward - This is the easy one - It feels good to do the right thing and deserve (or even receive praise)

How often ?

The goal is usually to achieve long term behavioural change. But obvious acts are not the ones that are drummed in daily (that poster soon goes unnoticed). Obvious ones are outstanding (or upstanding -like the kind act in the subway, or helping someone cross the road).

Will it ever go viral ?

Maybe - if you don't try you won't know. The maths of "virality" are extremely sensitive to tiny change (like chaos - the weather system triggered by the famed butterfly that flaps its' wings). This makes predicting an outcome near impossible.

This is why, as I opened this post I wrote  "And tiny opportunities can really change the world." because sometimes they do!

Who cares ?

If nobody cares, we are careless of our future. When climate change, or dumping garbage on the streets, or bullying, or offending with foul words is the norm, the people that do care are often the silent majority.

So act, give your authority, make it credible, teach about consequences and when people do well, give credit - publicly !

My small reward

I have my reward, the moment you read this, because it makes me feel I may be making a difference. But if you want to feel good and finally, if this makes sense to you then pass it on, pass comment, engage and best of all be a leader not a follower -  it works.

best James

And yours ...

PS - some readers will even yawn just because I have written the word YAWN - that is the power of thought leadership. So for fun a video I found on youtube.