Great Ideas Don't Spread by Themselves

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Some valuable and impactful business initiatives don't get the traction their creators expected, but some TikTok challenges do spread like wildfire. Why's that? There's no straightforward answer to that, but here are some things to keep in mind to make sure your ideas get the attention they deserve.

Why do some ideas spread through a population like a wildfire while others fizz out and never really have any significant impact? 

We've all seen it happen: a valuable new initiative is launched in a business, and it never gets the traction its creators were expecting. So they double down on the merits and issue supporting collateral like how-to guides, quickstart brochures, and activation campaigns. 

Nothing happens. 

Meanwhile, some random TikTok challenge takes hold of the population, and you see people everywhere performing routines without any prompts or encouragement. What changes?

There are a number of indicators that drive the adoption of new ideas and initiatives in a population. Sadly, there is no simple one-size-fits-all recipe that can make anything go viral: there are too many variables and too many other ideas that compete for attention.  

We can, however, increase our chances of success by keeping a few things in mind. Here are three:

1Keep it simple, then make it simpler

Whenever you launch an initiative, it needs to be as simple as possible. Even then, you can probably simplify it further. You could use ChatGPT video for example.

The human brain has two priorities: keeping us alive and conserving energy. 

The brain accounts for only 2% of our total body weight, yet it accounts for 20% of our total energy consumption. Research has shown that the average person uses about 320 calories every day just to think. The brain dislikes spending energy trying to understand things. It likes things spelled out clearly and concisely. If people need to invest time and calories to understand your project and what value it brings, you have already lost.

We need to make sure our initiative is easily understood.

2Things that are easy to reproduce tend to spread faster

People take social cues from other people. Next to the official communication channels, there are a multitude of informal lines of communication we sometimes know nothing about. People will get their information from trusted peers in the group. 

Making sure the early adopters can articulate the value and importance of an initiative to others is crucial. Early adopters can then become powerful advocates for the project; they create a ripple effect because they are able to deliver a compelling narrative to other potential participants. The easier we make it to share information with peers, the quicker an initiative will spread.

We need to enable early adopters with information to get others on board.

3Align with people's priorities

This is probably the most important rule of all. 

Remember how one of the brain's core priorities was keeping us alive? This function makes people extremely self-centered. Everyone is the center of their own universe. So whenever we want to change behavior, like driving participation in an employee advocacy project, we need to ask ourselves: why would an employee want to do this? 

In other words: how can we align what we want them to do with their priorities? Some people like visibility, others want to move up the hierarchy, still others simply enjoy being very good at something. While it may take some work to research what makes people tick, the resulting knowledge is often extremely valuable when rolling out an employee advocacy initiative.

We need to align our project with our audience's priorities.

In the end, the success of employee advocacy projects will be measured by their adoption: the more active contributors we can create, the more reach and impact the project will have.

Launching any initiative without taking into account how the audience will react to it is setting ourselves up for failure. 

The people we rely on to drive adoption already have a lot on their minds. If we want to make our projects more successful, we should share information about them that is easy to understand, readily reproduced, and aligns with our audience's priorities.

If you want to know more about Piet Saegeman…

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