If we have 1500 staff members, what are 15 of them doing together that creates an interesting micro-trend in our organization that we should be paying attention to?

I enjoyed reading Mark J. Penn and E. Kinney Zalesne’s Micro Trends: Surprising Tales of the Way We Live Today (Penguin 2007), and found this intriguing paragraph to capture the essence of the book:

Today, changing lifestyles, the Internet, the balkanization of communications, and the global economy are all coming together to create a new sense of individualism that is powerfully transforming our society. The world may be getting flatter, in terms of globalization, but it is occupied by 6 billion little bumps who do not have to follow the herd to be heard. … In fact by the time a trend hits 1 percent , it is ready to spawn a hit movie, best selling book, or new political movement. The power of individual choice is increasingly influencing politics, religion, entertainment and even war. In today’s mass societies, it takes only 1 percent of people making a dedicated choice – contrary to the mainstream’s choice – to create a movement that can change the world.

…or an organization? I have the exciting challenge to facilitate a four-year, system-wide organizational development and change process in my organization. Many teams will be involved in this evolving process. At this early stage we are thinking about how best to inform and engage people so that they see and feel their own potential to catalyse change in their areas of concern. I have been thinking about how to get the majority on board, but reading this book makes me think that, in fact, there may be no “majority” in the organization. Maybe, just like in the outside world, as MicroTrends proposes, people are going hundreds of small directions at once, quickly.

So how can we harness that energy for this process? Where are the niches within the organization? Maybe trying to unify people around one macro-slogan, tagline, or end point, is not the most effective way to go. Maybe we need to make lots of customised, personalised products and processes that speak to and build tolerance for the different choices that people are making (like going to staff picnics and not going to staff picnics, or coming to free coffee or not coming to free coffee.) The book talks not so much about identifying Communities of Practice, but Communities of Choice.

We need to start micro-trend spotting – what are those 15 people doing right now?

Watch Mark Penn’s GoogleTalks Video on YouTube.

1 reply
  1. NicoleVoillat
    NicoleVoillat says:

    I perfectly agree with you. People have different choices and the reasons and pattern of these choices can be multiple, especially in today’s complexity. So if we want elicit the stimulus for change instead of creating walls, we need to cultivate the skill of micro-targeting, identifying different groups and so creating customised products. This is what we are trying to do with a group of private sector professionals with whom we want to move ecosystems thinking and conservation to the centre of their business strategy. We are offering different ways of engaging (from awareness-raising to nature trips, to commitment and action) based on the inputs the network participants have indicated to us. Hopefully these will be the « small forces behind tomorrow’s big changes » or as M. Mead said : Never doubt that a small group of commited citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

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