Dancing Guy and Lessons on Starting a Movement

We’re trying to start a movement, here…  make no mistake.  The “End of the ICE Age” Movement…  and as I’m sitting down trying to formulate a real outline of what I’d like to accomplish I remembered this video that I think first appeared on http://www.TED.com.  It was by Derek Sivers, and is titled “Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy“.


There are several points I take away from this, which Sivers makes in his narration:

  • A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he’s doing is so simple, it’s almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow!
  • The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.
  • As more people jump in, it’s no longer risky. They won’t be ridiculed, they won’t stand out, and they will be part of the in-crowd. Over the next minute you’ll see the rest who prefer to be part of the crowd, because eventually they’d be ridiculed for not joining.

Here’s what’s interesting.  At first, when the leaders are out there alone – the lone guy and the “first followers”, people are reluctant to join in for fear of ridicule.  The second stage is the “tipping point”, where people join quickly to become part of the “cool” crowd, so that’s not about fear of ridicule, that’s motivated by the desire for notoriety or prestige – for “cool” status themselves.  Ultimately the “crowd” joins in, again, out of fear of ridicule but now for not being a part of the movement.

So how does this translate into what I’m trying to accomplish?  Simple.

I’ve said repeatedly that early adopters of emerging technology need to make a leap of faith.  New technology is based as much on a promise as on results, and often the promise simply doesn’t deliver.  Yet.  Early adopters need to have faith that, even though their investment of time and money is substantial, and their results may not immediately justify that investment, that it holds a promise for ultimately meeting, and exceeding their expectations.

To make that leap, early adopters need to feel confident in the principles of the technology, that is, they have to understand the core of the technology and be convinced it’s a viable solution.  This requires education.  (That is, they need to feel like they know how, or can learn, to dance with the Dancing Guy. “Be easy to follow”.)

They need to feel that they are not going to be left helpless with a huge investment that is unworkable.  This means they have to know that there is support available, there will be help if they need it, that they can solve, or get problems solved in spite of the fact that the solutions to these problems may not yet be developed.  (They need to feel like, once they are out there dancing, they’re not going to be left suddenly alone, exposed, and embarrassed.)

They need a sense of community.  Look at early adopters as the second and third guys to join the leader – they are forming a community, they have the support of peers, indeed, the earliest become leaders themselves within the community they help to form.  (They need to feel confident that others will join in dancing with them, that they are a part of a growing group and can learn and teach within that group.)

This is all about supporting early adopters once you’ve got them hooked.  But how do you hook them?

Simple.  Inspire them.

Whatever inspires them, whether it’s being “green”, saving money, experiencing the thrill of electric power…  it doesn’t matter what, but you have to have them by the heart, not the mind.  As a friend of mine is fond of saying, you don’t go on a date with a resume…  You’re not going to convert the masses by quoting facts and specs.  You’re going to get to them by appealing to what makes them live and breathe.

…which brings me to my second favorite video…  what motivates people, how to pull them by their heartstrings. Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose.  Between these two points is the Secret of Evangelizing Electric Transportation and Sustainable Energy…   People will adopt emerging technology because they want to, because they feel it gives them uniqueness, control, identity, Autonomy.  They’ll do it because it’s a chance to master a challenge, it’s not laid out for them, it’s a puzzle that needs solving – Mastery.  Think the “Purpose” part of the equation is simple?  Not at all… it may be the most difficult to put your finger on.  My sense of “Purpose” surrounding EVs includes as diverse factors as saving money, saving the Earth, reducing noise, as well as the feel of strapping my bony white ass onto a powerplant that has a straight-line powercurve…  and trying to change people’s ideas of what motorsports is all about.  You can’t get more “gear-head” than that.



One response to “Dancing Guy and Lessons on Starting a Movement

  1. Pingback: First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy·


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