Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tipping Points

Sometimes silence is not only golden it is also wise.

If you have not read Malcolm Gladwell's little book, Tipping Point yet I strongly suggest that you get it and peruse it as soon as possible. Not only is Gladwell a very good writer who entertains while he informs, this book will surely help you think about ways to influence others.

This boo suggests that small things can make a very big difference when it comes to change in society and groups. Some small things are like a virus that spreads from person to person in a rapid fire multiplication that touches lots of people.

Gladwell says there are three key types of influencers: Networkers, Mavens and Salesmen. Networkers seem to know many people and are in touch with them about the things they like. They are, therefore, like a virus.

Macens are those who possess a lot of knowledge about a topic and who love to share that knowledge with others. Most of us know someone who is a maven and we often ask them for information.

A sales person is able to "close the deal". They not only know people and have knowledge, they can get others to buy into the change process.

In the Wall Street Journal online there is a story about how one small event brought down the Berlin Wall and Communism. I hope you read the entire story, but here is the summary.

BERLIN -- The world believes Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev or peaceful protests brought down the Berlin Wall 20 years ago next month. But for those who had front-row seats, the argument boils down to Ehrman vs. Brinkmann.

Riccardo Ehrman, a veteran Italian foreign correspondent, and Peter Brinkmann, a combative German tabloid reporter, both claim they asked the crucial questions at a news conference on Nov. 9, 1989, that led East German Politburo member G√ľnter Schabowski to make one of the biggest fumbles in modern history.

Mr. Schabowski was supposed to announce a temporary bureaucratic procedure that would make it easier for East Germans to travel abroad, a tactic aimed at shoring up the Communist regime in the face of mass demonstrations.

Instead, he inadvertently opened the Berlin Wall.

When his fellow Communist leaders decided on new travel regulations, Mr. Schabowski was out of the room. Later that evening he skim-read the executive order, stuffed it in his briefcase, and headed off to meet the world's media.

Pressed on the meaning of the new travel policy -- When did it come into force? Did it apply to West Berlin? Did people need a passport? -- the flustered apparatchik rustled his papers and gave confusing answers that led the news media to believe the border was open, with immediate effect.

The result, once East Berliners had seen that night's news on West German television, was chaos at border crossings across the city.

At Bornholmer Strasse, one of the main checkpoints in central Berlin, confused border guards couldn't get clear orders on how to deal with the crush, and debated whether to open fire. Instead, they opened the barrier, and the Berlin Wall was history. The events have been chronicled by Hans-Hermann Hertle, a historian who specializes in the fall of East Germany.

This reminds me of the importance of hearing God when we are trying to be influencers in the world. I am always leery about my friends and colleagues who try too hard to force change. For example, a person running for the school board near my home advertises as a "Conservative Christian". This morning while drinking coffee with some friends the conversation focused on the fact that none of them would vote for a person who was agressively attempting to force her views on the school board and the kids.

This person may be a wonderful and sensitive Believer. I do not know. But the way to make friends and influence people is not by force or pressure but applying a small amount of networking, sales wisdom and knowledge at the right time and the right place. Small things can bring great changes.

At Sweeten Life Systems we teach people how to be gentle, caring and wise influencers. It takes patience, wisdom and understanding. All of which are in short supply in the world and one reason we teach Christians how to manage their own thoughts and feelings. If I cannot manage me how can I manage others?


Vicar of Vincennes said...

I hear so many people talking about taking the gospel to the marketplace....yea I know, some have been doing it for quite a while. Sadly most of what I see and hear of their tactics is a church service, simply without the hymnal, no collection plate and they quietly mutter praise the Lord out of earshot of the audience to whom they minister.
I appreciate your suggestion to the school board candidate.

Gary Sweeten said...

I spoke this past Monday morning to a "Market Place Ministry" group at 6:30 AM all the way downtown. UGH! I shared some of these concerns with them. Bullying is not the way Jesus told us to share the good news. How can a bad relationship share the good news?

I am so happy you are in the world, on the streets and walking in the ditches with real people. Keep it up.