Eight Rules About Harnessing Movement

1. The movement is not about you. It is not about its leaders, or even about its followers. It is about itself. Like all complex systems, a movement has emergent properties that cannot be explained through its component parts.

2. The movement is not about your product. You can sell to the movement if your product is directly relevant to it -- but you must remember that people won’t be buying your product for its own sake; they’ll be buying it because it reflects their commitment to the movement.

3. On the other hand, movements love creative synergies. At the opening game of the 1995-96 ice hockey season, Florida Panthers player Scott Mellanby killed a rat in the locker room. The incident captured the imagination of the fans, who began to celebrate Panthers goals by tossing rubber rats onto the ice. Officials would have to stop play for several minutes while the rats got cleaned off the ice -- by workers wearing Orkin Pest Control jumpsuits.

4. You must be invited into the movement. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to approach. But you have to be accepted. The invitation process is a dance: you reach out, you get a response, you respond appropriately. If you’re not wanted, you’re not wanted.

5. You don’t get to control the movement. You might survive the invitation ritual, but that doesn’t mean you can hijack the movement for your own purposes. Movements have minds of their own. You can try to influence them, but there’s little chance and no guarantee of success.

6. The movement may change its mind at any time. Movements, like hurricanes and swarms of bees, can switch direction abruptly and dramatically. Just when you think you’re completely in synergy with the group, you can be left all alone when the mood shifts.

7. The movement may turn on itself at any time. Just as a shift in direction might leave you out in the cold, it may also divide the movement. Factions can develop. Schisms can form. The power plays and struggles for control that marked the status quo against which the movement formed can re-create themselves in the new environment. Some animals become more equal than others.

8. The movement may dissolve at any time. One word: Kony. Early popularity is no guarantee of long-term sustainability. Movements can be fads or they can be harbingers of profound change. They can be silly or they can be intense; they can be insightful or they can be superficial. They are fickle lovers who can disappear without a moment’s notice.

So how do you harness a movement? You don’t. You strap in and hang on. Being part of a movement is a special thing. Enjoy the ride.

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2 comments about "Eight Rules About Harnessing Movement".
  1. Walter Sabo from SABO media , August 10, 2012 at 11:08 a.m.
    Pretty much every thing my 8 year old taught me about how you make friends on a playground. Esp ...be invited.
  2. Kaila Colbin from Ministry of Awesome , August 10, 2012 at 10:02 p.m.
    Yup... so true! We've got a lot to learn from 8-year-olds :)