From the introduction to the book
I am on two missions. One: I want to create epidemics of goodness and counter-epidemics to evil by applying the powers of social influence and social contagion. Two: I want to enlist you in my first mission. Grandiose language, I know. OK, I’ll come down to earth Let me translate. I want to create real change in organizations by applying the principles that create change in the macro-social world and vice versa. And I want to recruit you as a follower of these ideas:
(1) The only change is behavioural change. Pick any organization, health programme or societal change project. No matter how much you reorganize processes in the company, or how many health awareness campaigns are in place, or how many appeals to community cohesion your government funds; nothing changes until and unless behaviours change. If you are leading change in organizations or society, behaviours must be the focus of your attention. So we’d better know how to do this and, believe me, above all, how not to do it
(2) Behaviours don’t like classrooms, PowerPoint presentations, posters or billboards. Behaviours travel through imitation and copying. So this is the second clue. We’d better know how this works and ‘what’ or ‘who’ has the power to spread behaviours. We must get this right or we will be wasting our time, money and hope.
(3) Organizational change and macro-social change are large scale changes. How large will vary case by case, but we are not talking about changes that occur at the atomic level of management teams or in the intimacy of the one-to-one executive coaching sessions. These are important and may in some cases indeed be crucial to the organization, but the social infections I am talking about go beyond the scope of these situations.
This book is about bundling and un-bundling all the ingredients of social infection with behaviours at the core. I use the term of social infection to refer to social changes both inside the organization (i.e. the world of public and private business, as well as non profit) and in the macro-social world. I will share with you the logic behind this and I will use the premise that there is a continuum between both worlds. We need to unbundle the components to understand and master them. Then we need to re-bundle them, put it all together again to orchestrate that change
As you can already see, I have a passion for infections. I think there’s nothing better than a good epidemic. Blame it on my previous career as a practicing physician. If you are a manager or a leader in either of these worlds, you are also in the infection business. You may not know it yet, but this book is going to help you realize that this is the only hope you have of managing and leading successfully.
I want you to start thinking either like a good ‘patient zero’ (the term used in epidemiology to describe the first patient infecting others) or a social master of other ‘patients zero’. Yes, I do love epidemics. In fact, I want to create epidemics of success inside and outside organizations. OK, so we will need to define success, I agree. And I, like you, have my own ethical filters for picking my epidemics. ‘Epidemic’ usually has a negative connotation, I know, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. More on that later.