Innovators – R&D centers of any social context

December 11, 2011

Innovators are the R&D center of each social context.

Innovativeness should never be regarded as a stand-alone concept, because it is essentially linked with other forces of the SAM (Social Adoption Mechanism). If innovators are the R&D center, then opinion leaders are the marketing department of the social context, adapting the R&D’s innovations to fit the social context’s needs. And both ‘departments’ are necessary for a social context to adapt innovations efficiently.

If your aim is to analyse the innovator’s behavior, or to co-create with them, try to consider the other cogs of his social context as well.  Focussing too much on an isolated group of innovators might result in a lot of great ideas that miss relevance to the social context. The interactions between innovators, opinion leaders and other members of the social context, is what really should be the object of observation or collaboration.

Thank you Derek Sivers … best explanation of SAM (Social Adoption Mechanism) ever

August 5, 2011

For those who have not: look at this cute presentation by Derek Sivers on ‘the start of a movement’:

It shows how both typologies (innovator and gatekeeper) are crucial in introducing a new ‘idea’ to a group. The crazy dude (typical innovator) is just doing his thing, ignoring the group’s expectations. He is driven by nothing but his own amusement.

The second guy (typical gatekeeper), seeing the social potential, copies the crazy guy’s dance, and engages his friends to join.

The little movie perfectly explains the Social Adoption Mechanism (SAM), the diverse motivations and functions of each cog in the mechanism. So thank you Derek Sivers for looking attentively at this movie and explaining it with so much enthusiasm. Damn right I will use this in my future presentations about the topic.

Where good ideas come from …

July 7, 2011

Steven Johnson talks in his TED presentation about the environments that are most stimulating for generating innovations.

He argues that great innovative ideas are not being formed during some individual Eureka moment. Rather, these ideas are formed in social places, ‘where ideas can have sex’ . Chaotic environments like ancient coffeehouses where ideas from various backgrounds were likely to come together and have unpredictable collisions. Next he makes conclusions how to facilitate the innovation process in a company, elaborating on these insights.

The idea I share with Johnson is very strong: innovation is a social event, not an individual event.

However, I tend to disagree on the idea that social gatherings are the sole stimulating environments for innovation. As the SAM (social adoption mechanism) explains, you need isolated innovators, developing their ideas away from any social guiding, in the first place. I do agree that these ideas indeed need the collision with gatekeepers and larger social contexts to refine and adapt these raw ideas … and that process could have well happened at a coffehouse.

It is this mechanism, the interaction between innovators and gatekeepers, that leads to powerful innovations.

The evolution of ‘Relevance’

June 9, 2011

What is relevance really and why is it so important for marketeers?

Let’s use some evolutionary social psychology to explain relevance … When human social systems evolved, it was crucial to let through only those products or ideas that contributed significantly to the group.

If all new ideas could easily pass, every commonly held believe by the group would be attacked by any new idea. The social glue of the system would quickly fall apart and the group would quickly become an assembly of isolated individuals.

If on the other hand not one single idea would pass, you would get a hyper conservative social system, very stable indeed, but not flexible towards the environment. If such a system faced a changing environment, it was not able to change its course. Such a social system would soon be overruled by one more adapted to the environment.

Relevance is the perfect instrument to let a social system balance between stability and evolution. If relevant,  ideas or products are quickly adopted and diffused by the gatekeepers in a social context. They are the relevance specialists in a specific domain. Irrelevant topics are ignored by the gatekeepers and thereby stay banned for their social context.

Relevance and gatekeepers are crucial cogs in the social adoption mechanism. This ‘Social Adoption Mechanism’ was designed by evolution to allow the social system to react to its changing environment, while maintaining a high level of stability.

Spear B: the birth of the first brand

May 30, 2011

Most probably, the first brand must have appeared long before human beings were able to speak. It could well have happened on a moment as the one I’ll describe here …

For long, this tribe in Northern America has been hunting and staying close to a herd of buffalos. But due to a cold period, the herd has migrated towards the south, leaving our tribe with a food problem. Their hunting techniques and equipment have been finetuned during the last decades to attack buffalos. Spear A has been proven very useful in penetrating the buffalo’s skin. Erik, the blacksmith (avant la lettre) who invented this spear A, has spent his entire live developing and refining his innovation. His son, Björn, learned a lot from his father but developed his own technique in crafting spears. Despite his father’s instructions, he focussed on a sharper spear, less secure when thrown at the animal, but able to penetrate a thicker type of skin. Björn has practiced this new spear on different kinds of wood, improved it, and tested it over and over. Björn even argued that it would allow them to hunt down the biggest animal of them all … the mammoth. Unfortunately, noone would care to listen to his fantasies, not for the least his own father.

Johan, who is very aware of the problems his tribe is facing, is willing to take a risk. As a trusted opinion leader, he believes in Björn’s spear. He asks some of his blacksmith friends to have a look at it, to change the grip of the spear and to lighten the weight so it can be thrown from further away. When he considers spear B to be ready to give it a try, the tribe assembles some of its best hunters and equips them with Spear B. The hunting of mammoth had begun …

I may hope this story illustrates how the first brand could have been born, making use of only word-of-mouth (actually, the first form of WOM must have been sound-of-mouth or gesture-by-hand :-)) and the SAM (social adoption mechanism). Spear B was the perfect answer to a changing environment and consequently an emerging need within the social system … Björn had the answer, Johan linked the innovation with the emerging need. The SAM did its job … it’s some plain and simple marketing.

Communicating with the SAM (Social Adoption Mechanism)

December 12, 2010

Communicating with the SAM (Social Adoption Mechanism) is not about reaching as many individuals as you can = the only law in the media landscape I know.

Lessons from social psychology show us how we can efficiently communicate with the SAM by incorporating some subtle rules.

When you want to talk to your innovators

  1. identifying and localising your innovators = your innovator channel
  2. don’t invade their private space … show respect and be honest about who you are
  3. let your expert people bring the message … they speak the same language (get your marketing boys/girls outta there!)
  4. the message is expert level … focus on technical details, authenticity, …
  5. they like passion about the product and expertise … show some
  6. don’t pamper or reward them … this is what they choose to talk about
  7. listen to feedback on your message
  8. use snowball sampling to reach more innovators of your category

Read the rest of this entry »

Applying the SAM to your ideation funnel

December 9, 2010

So you think co-creating is a good idea, but let me ask you a question:

Do you want your opinion leaders to define your product functionalities? Do you want your product geeks to define your product design?

I guess not. Sure, co-creating is a wonderful thing, but be careful who you co-create with in each step of the process.

Identify innovators, people who use your product for a specific purpose, and upgrade your product with them. Identify opinion leaders, generalists, and work with them so this new upgrade will get socially desirable.

The efficiency of your ideation funnel will be so much higher if you incorporate these simple lessons.

Good luck … or don’t leave the future of your product to luck and have a healthy chat with wenovate!